OPINION

Europe’s weakest link

Turkey’s increasingly willful attititude toward the Cypriot Republic and Greece over the two countries’ plans to explore for hydrocarbon deposits in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean comes at a time when both Greece and Cyprus are experiencing harsh economic crises and certain member states appear to be re-evaluating their position within the bloc and their opinion of the common currency.

The European economic crisis has brought political instability to all the countries in the southern part of the continent, while in the precarious southeastern Aegean, geopolitical balances that have held for years are being rocked, with Cyprus feeling this tectonic shift in every fiber of its being.

The global crash of 2008 and the ineffective manner in which it was handled by the eurozone heralded a new chapter in the region’s history, which revealed that the bloc is not prepared to guarantee that it will bail out its members on the basis of standard terms and conditions, nor that it will uphold common decisions such as the June 2012 Stability and Growth Pact established for the operation of the European Stability Mechanism. Faced with the first major crisis since its foundation, the common European project has begun to crack. On the one hand the stronger partners are looking first and foremost after their own individual interests, and, on the other, the weaker members are left exposed to the risk of becoming geopolitically isolated on top of having to try to salvage their extremely vulnerable economies. The eurozone is acting as though it cannot or will not safeguard even what little sovereignty its bankrupt members have left.

The reaction from states experiencing bankruptcy or recession vary depending on the threats they face. There are common denominators, however, and these are widespread concern, euroskepticism and a sense of growing distance between the north and the south that may evolve into a political rift unless moves of mutual rapprochement are made.

If a serious break in the unity of Europe is to be avoided, we must see changes being made to the policy mix that is currently being applied. The instability that austerity-based bailout programs are causing in Cyprus and Greece is outweighing the advantages of their entry into the European family and may force the crisis-hit states of the bloc to proceed with a serious review of strategic planning that has taken decades to develop.