The new Talleyrand?

The ruling party is engaging in exercises to regain its lost courage. Prime Minister Costas Simitis visited Iraklion, Crete – PASOK’s decades-old stronghold – while, following his pilgrimage in Kalenzti, Socialist party chairman-in-waiting George Papandreou headed for Thrace, anticipating a warm embrace by the Muslim minority as a reward for his Turkey policy. Unlike Papandreou, however, the Muslims of Greece do not forget the fact that the open-horizons and equal-opportunities policy for the Christian and Muslim populations in Thrace was first promoted by former conservative prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis. Furthermore, New Democracy’s earlier policy of rapprochement with Turkey would have yielded more fruit had it not met with fierce resistance from PASOK, at a time when Simitis was sidelined and George Papandreou was abstaining from active politics while serving as a minister. Papandreou’s supporters are keen to portray him as the new Talleyrand in foreign policy issues while, in truth, he is nothing but an administrator of Simitis’s policies. At the same time, his fans forget the Imia crisis, which resulted in the recognition of Turkey’s «legitimate interests» in the Aegean Sea, and the fiasco of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan, which worsened the Greek-Turkish rapprochement first promoted by the conservatives. The decisive role played by the United States in both these crises established Washington’s influence on the Simitis government and despite PASOK’s strong anti-American drive, Greece fell willingly behind the NATO war on Yugoslavia while a close Papandreou aide took part in the plans to overthrow former Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milosevic without receiving any payoff from the new establishment. The pro-American shift would be welcome had Greece received more than cost-free compliments. But Greece, a member of the EU’s hard core according to Simitis, failed to reach a favorable settlement on Cyprus that would anticipate respect of the acquis communautaire in the UN-backed deal. Simitis and Papandreou even managed to come across as the warmest advocates of the UN plan, thereby undermining the Greek Cypriots’ bargaining power. Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos is now struggling to make the best out of a mishandled issue for which Athens is largely responsible. Simitis and Papandreou obviously never realized that the aim of foreign policy is not simply to settle outstanding issues but rather to find solutions that serve the true national interest and not those of third – including EU – governments.

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