OPINION

Greece in the matrix of conflict

When the Greek debt crisis erupted, who would have thought that it would lead to Britain being cut off from the other 26 members of the EU, as happened last week with the decision to move toward a closer fiscal union? However, if we look back at the decisions taken at 16 summit meetings over the past 18 months, and the need for Prime Minister David Cameron to appease Euroskeptics in his party, this chain of events seems inevitable. Fearing the euro’s collapse, the EU’s leading countries pressed for a stronger union, perhaps as a prelude to future intervention by the European Central Bank that may save the day by convincing everyone that the EU is serious about protecting the euro. The eurozone members persuaded another nine countries that are not yet part of the single currency to join them. Only Britain chose to stand apart, in order to protect London’s financial sector from new regulation and because its coalition government obviously feared the result of a referendum that the Euroskeptics would have demanded before ratifying any new deal.

We saw once again how history is shaped by circumstances and decisions; so it is useful to look at the dynamics affecting our country today and where they may lead. The most direct challenge that Greece faces is the economic, political and social crisis. Our country’s weakness ? and the dependence, uncertainty and isolation arising from it ? plays a decisive role in our foreign policy. It is fortunate that whatever we face today, Greece is a member of the EU and NATO. Last week we saw both organizations spelling out to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia that it cannot join them before it solves its differences with Greece, despite the European Court of Justice ruling that Greece violated the interim agreement between the two countries when it prevented FYROM’s joining NATO.

Our region has been affected radically by the Arab revolts, which are still developing along unpredictable paths. What is certain is that at this time, Turkey’s position has been strengthened greatly. Most people in the Arab and Muslim countries see Turkey as a model of a modern Muslim society, while Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is by far the most popular leader in the region. This has resulted in an unprecedented strengthening of ties between Turkey and the United States, as both overlook the problem of heightened tension between Ankara and Tel Aviv and the strong anti-Americanism of a large part of the Turkish population. Turkey’s position is strengthened further by the global fear provoked by Iran’s nuclear program. Turkey has said that it will host part of the US anti-missile system, which is aimed against Iran, at a time when Greece depends more and more on oil purchases from Iran. Two weeks ago, Greece blocked an EU decision to ban Iranian oil imports, but it is only a matter of time before Greece is forced to fall in line with its partners.

The situation is complicated further by Russia’s role in the region and the expected worsening of ties between Moscow and Washington following US criticism of the recent Russian elections. Moscow is expected to keep blocking the imposition of sanctions against Iran and will also seek new sources of friction with Washington. This will have an immediate impact on our region because Russia, which has loaned Cyprus 2.5 billion euros, is expected to take part in the exploitation of natural gas in the region ? while Turkey is virulently opposed to the Cypriot government’s exploration efforts. The alliance between Cyprus and Israel, and the improved ties between Athens and Tel Aviv, create a new dynamic for the region. With new alliances and new tensions between countries, but also with new domestic divisions, it is impossible to predict where all this leads.

The EU’s economic crisis, the Arab revolts, Iran’s nuclear program and the expected Russian reaction after the post-election protests, will serve as catalysts for political and economic developments and for new relations between countries. Greece is on every frontline. As it looks inwards, it is simply carried along by events.