False expectations

Recent developments in Nicosia confirm that the Cyprus issue has not become a stagnant matter, as reformists in Athens believe, placing all hope in a fresh international initiative that could revive the UN plan for reunification. In fact, any progress on the issue is due to the initiatives of the leader of the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot state Rauf Denktash and the Islamic government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara. The so-called «framework agreement» for an eventual customs union between Turkey and the breakaway state signed on Friday should prompt second thoughts in the mind of Greek Premier Costas Simitis, whose administration deems that the EU bogeyman can block any such moves from Ankara. Reactions from Brussels so far have been mild and the EU has said it will examine the documents before deciding whether Ankara has breached any commitments made to the Union. More interestingly, Ankara says that the agreement will to help bring about an «economic equilibrium in Cyprus,» boost commerce and investment and, overall, contribute to the European aim of improving conditions in the northern part of the island. Greek policymakers on Cyprus are probably relaxing somewhere in the Aegean Sea, congratulating themselves on their foreign policy achievements. However, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, currently at the helm of the EU’s rotating presidency (and who was a witness at the wedding of Erdogan’s son), is one of the warmest advocates of Turkey’s EU membership and, possibly, the tough reaction that Greece expects from Brussels may never come. In that case, the modernist-minded politicians in Athens will merely try to play down the incident so as not to shake the concept on which they have based their policy regarding the Cyprus issue and Turkey.