False hopes

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has thrown his weight behind Ankara’s EU bid, and enjoys close personal ties with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Therefore, it should be expected that resurgent Turkish aggressiveness in the Aegean would raise deep concern in the government in Athens. This, however, is one thing, while discriminating between the responsibility of an ostensibly intransigent, anachronistic military regime and a supposedly moderate, reformist Islamist government is quite another. This meaningless – on a practical level – distinction was first introduced during the Greco-Turkish rapprochement promoted by George Papandreou and purported by philhellene Ismail Cem (who were at that time, respectively, the foreign ministers of Greece and Turkey) when, in fact, Turkey’s foreign policy was decided by then Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and the National Security Council. Without doubt, there are forces within Turkey’s traditional establishment that are opposed to the democratization reforms demanded by Brussels. But it would be wrong to assume that it is these forces alone which determine Ankara’s policy in the Aegean. Turkey would not have been able to move closer to the EU without the army’s consent. Erdogan would not have survived without support from Turkey’s General Staff. On the other hand, no Turkish military official would, on his own, ever send warplanes into Greek airspace or patrol boats near the Imia islets. That is to say, Turkey’s policy toward Greece is a single and unified entity, and its EU bid does not necessarily imply any revision of its expansionist policy in the Aegean. Athens will have to get used to this reality and stop pinning the blame on the military, which is, at best, a futile, knee-jerk reaction.