Air space violations

Turkish provocations in the Aegean Sea have brought to center stage a problem usually avoided by Greek diplomacy. In the face of increasing air space violations, Athens has followed a policy of appeasement that is based on playing the «Europe card.» Given Turkish impatience to join the EU, Greek diplomacy has sought to lure Ankara into an accession process that will «Europeanize» Turkey’s political behavior. But Ankara is not responding. All these provocations aim not just at underscoring its Aegean claims but also amount to a form of military pressure on Greece. But it’s a very risky way of doing so. In truth, Ankara is faced with unprecedented political challenges, for it is caught up in traditional stereotypes. Ankara’s display of power and inflexibility may have worked in the past, but now it has appeared to backfire. Turkish rejection of the Annan plan for Cyprus opened the path for the island’s EU membership. On top of that, it reinforced the Greek Cypriots’ bargaining position, which will be further enhanced when Cyprus formally joins the bloc in 2004. Turkey is mired in a strategic crisis which is being exacerbated by a conflict within its leadership. The Aegean provocations are more than an atavistic reaction of the military bureaucracy to its recent political defeat. Ankara fears that the outcome of the Helsinki declaration will foreclose its expansionism on foreign turf. Hence it is trying to lure Athens into a cold war in order to torpedo this process and bring Greek-Turkish relations back to the familiar old context of bilateral tension that will give the Turks room for blackmailing pressure. Greece should not play Turkey’s game. It must take political countermeasures within the EU context that make clear that such provocations will only injure its EU aspirations. Athens’s complaint to the EU was a proper step in this direction.