It would be wrong to be distracted here by the confusion caused during the translation of Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu?s comments in Athens yesterday. The two countries? positions on the Aegean Sea disputes are well known to everyone — it would be unthinkable to try and revise these in such manner.
In any case, Davutoglu?s visit was of great significance, not because something came out of it but rather because of the fresh momentum that needs to be injected into bilateral relations — especially in the current context. Although it may sit uncomfortably with some Greeks, Turkey now counts as a respectable regional power.
The current volatility in the region and the decisiveness that Ankara has shown, also during the Syria crisis, underscores Turkey?s strategic significance in the wake of the Soviet Union?s collapse. At the same time, Turkey?s economic growth could make it a key partner for Greece had the Greek business community been more creative and less dependent on state subsidies (something which will anyhow have to change).
For more than 30 years, Greece has been a full and equal member of the European system. The end result was the creation of a mammoth public sector, the growth of state-dependent companies, and the unchecked spending of borrowed money. The presence of Greek companies elsewhere in Europe, let alone the rest of the world, was (with very few exceptions) next to nothing. Greece effectively placed itself outside the European system by indulging in a mixture of idleness and seeking the good life. Economic cooperation with Turkey would be a way of strengthening the country within the European system.
For 40 years, Greek-Turkish ties have been tested severely, mainly over Aegean oil deposits. Now the discovery of gas deposits inside a yet-to-be-declared exclusive economic zone (EEZ) raises a new issue. When the oil dispute broke out in the 1970s, Greece possessed military superiority in the air and at sea — thanks to its Phantom aircraft and submarines. Of course nothing good came out of that. Today the military balance has shifted decisively against Greece and making use of energy deposits is imperative.
Reason dictates the ad hoc exploitation of any resources found on the border between the two countries for mutual benefit — even if not all bilateral issues have been settled. Unloading the ideological tension of Greek-Turkish relations is a necessary and perhaps the sole prerequisite. Davutoglu was right to repeat late Turkish President Turgut Ozal?s words: ?We are part of the same history and geography.?