OPINION

Reciprocity

Talks between Karamanlis and Erdogan are expected to have a strong effect on bilateral ties, but Greece will not only rely on what its guest has to say. Accepting the Turkish premier’s request to visit Thrace was a political wager. On the other hand, this will be an opportunity to test Erdogan’s intentions and political will, evaluating his message to the Muslim minority and asking for a legitimate trade-off, like the reopening of the Halki theological school. Erdogan’s visit comes at a crucial time – less because of the Cyprus referenda and the island’s EU accession, and more because Greek-Turkish relations are at a crucial turning point. Although the policy of rapprochement has produced a number of cooperation accords and kept tension in the Aegean at a low level, it has fallen short of consolidating Athens’s ties with Ankara. Ankara cannot be expected to withdraw its unilateral claims. But so long as these remain on the table, volatility in bilateral relations will persist. Some circles in Athens insist on neglecting the fact that warm ties and cooperation are to the benefit of both countries and maintain that Greece should «buy» detente and promote rapprochement by making concessions or giving in to Turkish demands. Such a postmodern approach is cut off from the reality of international relations and puts bilateral ties on an uneven basis. This stand and the one of «structural» opposition to Turkey are two sides of the same coin. Both are dangerous and counterproductive. However, good-neighbor relations are built on the basis of reciprocity. No doubt Athens prefers to be dealing with an EU-oriented government and, for this reason, it will try to help Turkey get a date for the start of EU membership talks in December. Greek assistance, however, should come under the condition that Turkey will go on to meet Athens’s overtures with tangible initiatives.