OPINION

Changing Greek-Turkish ties

Athens’s policy on Greek-Turkish relations began to take shape in the early 1990s and has since developed through the wider, and increasingly cordial, EU-Turkish relationship. With minor variations, all Greek governments have acted on the supposition that more benign Athens-Ankara relations combined with positive developments in EU-Turkish ties would eventually put Turkey in a position where it had to abandon its hostility toward Greece. With such calculations in mind, successive Greek leaders believed that such an approach would lead to a viable solution for a united state in Cyprus based on the rules of international justice and existing United Nations decisions. Four prime ministers over 15 years have built their foreign policy on that basis. Now, on the eve of a starting date being given for Turkey’s EU accession talks, with Cyprus still divided but a full EU member and with Ankara staking its claims in the Aegean in the most emphatic, military manner, Greece’s 15-year policy has come to its conclusion. Henceforth, the Greek political leadership has two options: either to stay with the policy that ended at the 1999 EU summit in Helsinki – awaiting developments mainly through the actions and initiatives of third parties – or to formulate a new policy for Greek-Turkish relations. Ankara is making no secret of the policy it intends to follow concerning the Aegean or what it expects from its steps toward EU membership. Thus, the Greek government has all the evidence it needs to go ahead, if it chooses, with a new policy on bilateral relations, especially concerning the Aegean. If this is in fact the aim of Athens, then that should be made apparent to the EU by the December 17 summit meeting.