OPINION

The ‘gray zones’ of politics

the-gray-zones-of-politics

I’m not one of those who like to regurgitate the tired cliche according to which Turkey always wins in negotiations and Ankara’s diplomacy triumphs. Besides, it’s almost amusing reading Greek and Turkish newspapers which traditionally observe that the other side has carried the day.

Now, however, a number of serious issues have arisen. Europe is dealing with Turkey in a way that reinforces the latter’s hegemonic behavior.

When European Council President Donald Tusk makes Deal A and then Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu comes asking for Deal A x 2, it makes no sense to accept it. Nevertheless, German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed to start the negotiations all over again.

This highlights Europe’s sense of panic and lack of understanding of Turkey’s negotiating tactics as consistently practiced over recent decades. Ankara feels it controls a tap. If it opens it too much, it might “drown” Europe, and Merkel’s political future too.

Athens agreed to a NATO presence in the Aegean to please Berlin. We all know that this is not a substantial mission but something of a show. Shows, however, have their own rules, which have yet to be determined.

NATO has traditionally refused to take sides on sensitive matters regarding pending issues in Greek-Turkish relations. The current Greek government believes this could change and that, if anything, Turkey’s aggressiveness will become clear for all to see. I wouldn’t count on that. The most likely scenario in this case is that at a certain point our European allies, possibly with a contribution from Washington, will suggest we gather round the table and figure out our differences.

This could happen during a moment of calm or following an incident in which a Greek vessel enters what Ankara calls a “gray zone.”

Greece has consistently sought to avoid conducting negotiations under pressure. However, it has now become clear that as time goes by our neighbors are putting even more issues on the table. There were those who considered the so-called gray zones a negotiating tool to be used by Turkey within the framework of reaching a deal. Unfortunately, this is not the case as those gray zones have gone beyond being a tool and have become a target.

Turkey feels that right now it is holding Europe hostage and it will try to achieve as many of its long-term goals as possible, beyond euros and visas. Greece will have to play its cards very carefully to avoid major mistakes.