OPINION

Fruitful visit

The visit by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Greece was a positive development as it helped consolidate a feeling of mutual trust – also among the public – a feeling that is reinforced by the excellent personal ties between the premiers of the two countries. It is worth noting that the most spectacular steps in improving the political climate on the two sides of the Aegean were taken in Thrace, thereby rewarding the Greek prime minister’s political insight. Conservative leader Costas Karamanlis did not once hesitate to give the green light to Erdogan’s formal visit to northern Greece, despite criticism and warmongering remarks, mostly from opposition cadres. «No one told you to abandon your Turkish identity, but do not forget that you are Greek citizens,» Erdogan said while addressing the part of the Muslim minority who are ethnic Turks. «You are Greek citizens and citizens of the European Union… A strong Greece will provide you with greater benefits,» the Turkish prime minister added. Erdogan’s weighty remarks dealt a serious blow to the hardline patriots within the minority. Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis was right to point out that «it is clear that the stand and the remarks made by the prime ministers of Greece and Turkey serve as a warning to nationalist and extremist voices of the past and takes the wind out of their sails. The two sides are abandoning past insecurities and misgivings and sending a strong message of understanding and cooperation on all sides.» The controversy-filled and complex problems between Greece and Turkey no doubt still exist. A solution is neither close, nor easy. Nevertheless, the two premiers agreed that although they will both aim to work for a settlement, no deadline should be set for resolving these disputes. Parallel to their low-level discussions, the efforts of the two premiers center on the cultivation of a climate of trust, building a better environment in which future talks can be held. Debate on Turkey’s EU future in the coming months should help reinforce this climate as the Greek government never tires of stressing its unconditional support for Turkey’s demand for an EU talks date. The strengthening of economic ties between Greece and Turkey is also expected to fuel the momentum of rapprochement between the two countries.