Recovering, in an unstable neighborhood

The pain of others eases that which we ourselves experience. Early signs are indicating that civil unrest in Egypt is redirecting Mediterranean cruise ships to Greece’s Aegean islands. At the same time, conference tourism is shifting away from Istanbul, and many last-minute package holidaymakers are picking Greek destinations instead of the country’s regional competitors.

Even Russian-speaking tourists have this year taken advantage of super-cheap holiday packages and swarmed Greece’s peaceful beaches and monasteries, preferring, among other things, their safety over the Holy Land and the Sinai Desert.

The temporary gains from tourism however are one thing, while expecting to benefit from our neighbors’ structural and persisting problems is quite another. The fact is that Greece is facing a structural crisis of its own. It’s a prolonged and brutal crisis, and a volatile southeastern Mediterranean is by no means the ideal environment for recovery.

Instability in Turkey, for example, could entail risk for the rest of the region. The neo-Ottoman agenda being pursued by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is now meeting with fierce political resistance from the middle-class strata. At the same time, the country is witnessing the bursting of the bubble that has grown through construction and cheap short-term borrowing.

The money that so easily flowed into developing countries is now taking flight with similar ease. Money is flowing out of Turkey not just because of the declining power of the political establishment. Capital is also fleeing from India and Indonesia and getting ready to return to the American market in anticipation of higher interest rates.

What is best for Greece? An arrogant Turkey with ambitions of becoming a neo-Ottoman superpower across the region from Iran to the Balkans and the Aegean? Or a wounded, unstable Turkey that would turn aggressive just in order to deflect attention from its internal contradictions?

The ball is back in our court.

The only way we can play a productive and meaningful role in the broader region is by being able to stand on our own feet as a sovereign country – not as a divided entity.