Left in the dark

In the past, it was unthinkable for Greece’s main political parties to engage in bilateral talks with Turkey over its unilateral demands in the Aegean Sea. Athens would only hold talks on the continental shelf, a legal issue according to Greek governments. After 1988 (the Davos agreement), this policy was gradually abandoned and, after 1996, Greece (encouraged by the US) braced for a comprehensive political dialogue. The continental shelf and other related issues were put on the table and subsequent negotiations were held within the framework of transatlantic relations and Turkey’s EU aspirations. The Simitis administration worked hard in that direction, while New Democracy (unlike some senior socialist cadres) raised few objections. As early as 1990, former conservative Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis had stressed the need for an open and all-embracing Greek-Turkish dialogue. In March, the new government of Costas Karamanlis received a confidential report on the so-called exploratory talks between the two sides, already in their second year. Over the past three days, the government and the opposition have been mired in bickering over Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos’s statements that Greek air space could be reduced in the context of political dialogue on improving bilateral ties. PASOK slammed the government for «making concessions on fixed Greek positions,» reducing it to an embarrassed, defensive stance. There is a black hole in the center of all this: The public and most politicians are in the dark over the confidential Aegean talks. Government and opposition leaders have avoided any references, invoking their commitment to keeping their mouths shut. But as long as the agenda remains confidential, anyone can say what they like, when they like. A huge national security issue is in danger of becoming the subject of cheap political squabbling.