OPINION

Letter from Thessaloniki

In this atmosphere of bliss, with street festivals, open-air concerts and firework displays greeting the New Europe, including Cyprus, allow me to quote two Turkish colleagues who write for the opinion pages at important Turkish dailies on subjects such as enlargement, Cyprus and Turkey’s place in Europe. In his column titled «This Piece Will Annoy Pollyanna Intellectuals» (Aksam, April 28) Serdar Turgut quotes Ibrahim Karagul, another columnist, for Yeni Safak (New Dawn), who – in an article published the day before and titled «The New Middle East, New NATO and New Cyprus» – summed up what, according to his research, the US and Britain had in mind with Cyprus: Nothing else but cold-blooded military strategy. A strategy that will be unveiled, they both emphasized, at June’s NATO summit in Istanbul. (By the way, all the quotations, above and hereafter, are from some published source, mainly the Turkish Press. But the International Herald Tribune, Kathimerini English Edition, Le Monde, the Independent as well as various newspapers from the Balkana region can also claim credit or blame.) «The Americans want to have a firm foothold in Cyprus because from there, Washington wants to control its Greater Middle Eastern Initiative, which is seen by optimistic intellectuals as a ‘plan to bring democracy to the region,’ but is actually a plan to form a new world by wrecking balances in the region. The world’s most secret intelligence system, ECHELON, will be coordinated from Cyprus. This system spies on the Middle East, Central Asia and the Caucasus from its headquarters in Cyprus. It can control every electronic and radio signal and can block military, commercial and diplomatic communications. The US sees the island as a key site for the defense of the West.»  With Cyprus now in the European Union, there is the tangible danger that the EU might set up something that would be seen as a competitor and alternative to NATO. And although the US president once said, while in Poland, that the new Europe must also be «open to Russia,» the above idea is certainly not fully appreciated any more by the administration of President George W. Bush. Isn’t everyone really – including the Greek and Turkish Cypriots – determined to make the island a bridge to the greater Middle East, anyway? France, Germany and Britain also have plans for the Middle East and strategies for their own interests. Consequently, they are also in favor of prospective bridges to the East. Some days ago in a commentary written for the French daily Le Monde, British Prime Minister Tony Blair reiterated that his government supported Ankara’s EU membership bid because it will help to bridge Europe and the Islamic world. Now back once more to fresh EU-member Cyprus: Contrary to general belief and according to Yeni Safak: «America’s main goal is to continue to have a divided island. At the Istanbul NATO summit, either the EU-NATO members will agree to an American-led NATO base on Cyprus or should there be no agreement, then the US will try to establish its own base with Ankara’s consent.» In his article, Ibrahim Karagul describes US presidents working as if from a master plan. Well, June is close enough and we will soon see about this. Yet if a divided Cyprus is considered by many to be the EU’s sole paradox, it actually is not. High up north on the map you find a second one, Kaliningrad, an enclave in western Russia, now also part of European territory as it is surrounded by Lithuania, Poland and the Baltic Sea. Therefore, after that «bridge to the Islamic world,» which is Cyprus, with Kaliningrad we have another prospective bridge to greater Russia as well. Still, let’s admit that the vision of a United Europe approving a more independent attitude and paying close heed to Russia is most certainly chilling for the United States. The big chill is that the 25-member European Union, no more a mere trade bloc, might seriously begin to develop into a grouping with its own strategic ambitions and – worse – with its own military force. And what if Europe should ever want to act militarily without the United States? Could the EU ever be active and take steps all in the name of «military necessity?» Incidentally, while I was in Kaliningrad – I do get around – last year, the daily Pravda wrote: «Russians living in Kaliningrad would eventually have the right to travel freely within the EU, creating thus the first step for all Russians to be integrated.» The same applies with the Turkish Cypriots and Turks, isn’t that right? The birthplace of German philosopher Immanuel Kant («Don’t obey any authority, however important it claims to be»), the ancient seat of the kings of Prussia and Joseph Stalin’s trophy territory in 1945, is rich in historical resonance. «No greater harm can be done to a nation,» Kant wrote two centuries ago, «than taking away its national character, the idiosyncrasies of its spirit and its language.» After the last EU enlargement brought the «official» languages up to 20-something, many Europeans are taking up arms against an ever-increasing number of English words insinuating their way into their mother tongues. The – desperate – aim is to stop the exaggerated use of Anglicisms and Americanisms in cases where there are perfectly good national equivalents. It is crazy but hard as I tried, I could hardly find the suitably corresponding Greek lyrics to «Shake It!» – our national contribution to the Eurovision Song Contest, starring Sakis Rouvas.