OPINION

Greek-Turkish relations

There are other issues beyond those focusing on the economy that the government, formerly of the “Indignants” and currently adapting – willingly or unwillingly – to eurozone realities, is faced with. Ankara made sure to remind the SYRIZA-Independent Greeks coalition of this reality, albeit in a rather annoying manner.

Footage recently surfaced on the Turkish Air Force’s website showing a two-seater F-16 fighter jet piloted by the commander of the Turkish Air Force, General Akin Ozturk. The F-16 was seen flying over the Aegean Sea above the islands of Lesvos and Kastelorizo, repeatedly violating Greece’s 10 nautical mile air space.

A few days ago, Turkey issued a Notice to Airmen, or NOTAM, to reserve a large area of air space over the Aegean in the upcoming months for military exercises. The order was subsequently canceled – clearly following intervention by NATO and the US – through a note clarifying that the original coordinates had been erroneous.

While both incidents could be treated as incidents of customary Turkish arbitrariness, the framework of Greek-Turkish relations has been altered.

Over the last two decades, successive governments believed Turkey’s course toward the European Union would force it to adapt to European standards and pursue a normalization of bilateral ties.

These expectations were refuted. The EU ceased to be attractive to Ankara, while at the same time Turkey’s Islamic governments carried out a radical modernization of the economy and the country entered the G20 club.

In December 2014, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made it clear that he did not care whether the EU accepted Turkey as a member. The European “idea” was pushed to the back burner of Erdogan’s “new Turkey,” while Russia’s Vladimir Putin gradually turned into a major political and economic partner.

An Islamic country in a broader Islamic region, surrounded by the remnants of the former Soviet Union, Turkey is not interested in jumping into the void of the European system, with all its suffocating regulatory political and economic rules. Despite the disagreements, the only Western country with which Turkey maintains operational ties is the US.

Over the years, Ankara succeeded in Greece’s Finlandization with respect to the Aegean and, logically, it does not wish to open yet another front at present. Given the current fluid situation defining the broader region, however, relations with Ankara are particularly crucial at this point. United Europe is unable to intervene. Only Washington could possibly play a role, as would the development of bilateral ties with our neighbor.