No one expected that Turkey would join Greece in celebrating the anniversary of the 1821 uprising against the Ottoman Empire. Nor did anyone expect that on that very symbolic day for Greece, Turkish fighter jets would violate Greek airspace over the Evros border region and the Aegean Sea. In doing so, Turkey violated agreements that stipulate refraining from military activity on national holidays.
The coronavirus pandemic has left the globe in disarray. Anti-government activists in Hong Kong were stranded at home. So were the yellow vests in Paris. Even Islamic extremists appear to have put their terrorist activity on hold.
The one thing that the coronavirus does not seem to have affected is Turkey’s provocative policy toward Greece. Ankara’s submission to the United Nations of the coordinates included in the Turkey-Libya maritime boundaries accord – which shun the continental shelf of Crete, the Dodecanese islands and Cyprus – was just a confirmation of its intransigence.
While everyone is busy dealing with the coronavirus, Ankara is seeking to create faits accomplis. No one should be surprised if Turkey were to launch energy exploration south of Crete.
Some pundits in Greece tend to interpret Turkey’s behavior as a sign of cultural and political underdevelopment. The problem is that this sense of cultural superiority, as it were, is not enough to make up for our inherent inferiorities. What matters most for Greece is the way in which the Turkish state operates.
All that does not mean that a dangerous incident is imminent. Amid the grim mood created by the pandemic, it would be unwise to decide upon any action that would intensify public insecurity further. The appearance of the new virus, which casts its shadow over all of humanity, will bring about significant change, the extent of which is now unknown.
Modern projects without deep historical roots, such as the European Union, will suffer severe shocks. The problems of the European unification project had become evident before the coronavirus outbreak. And the failure of the European Council to agree on decisive measures to soften the impact of the coronavirus on the economy has simply affirmed the level of European immaturity.
Turkey is a different case. Since 1354, when the Ottomans conquered the Gallipoli fortress, Turkey has lost territory, but it was never fully conquered. Turkey, as a state entity, has historical depth and obsessions. It is this Turkey that Greece has to deal with. Our country cannot as if by magic be relocated to a safer corner in Northern Europe. The coronavirus will at some point go away. Turkey will stay.