Change, urgently

The US government’s inelegant unilateral recognition of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) by the name of «Macedonia» and its probable consequences indicate that the Greek government must conduct another audit: not of the economy this time, but of foreign policy. Such a re-evaluation will not be an audit of numbers, naturally, but rather of the need to document precisely where Greece stands in the complex international arena: what positions it has adopted and how it promotes them, what future challenges are apparent, and what preparation is required to deal with them. Greece’s traditional foreign affairs issues – Greek-Turkish relations, the Cyprus question, and FYROM – are already caught up with the itinerary and enlargement of the European Union. And the likelihood of a deterioration in our relations with the US following Washington’s latest blunder concerning FYROM adds another layer of complexity and uncertainty for the future. The PASOK governments led by Costas Simitis bequeathed a moderate political line which is also being pursued by the present New Democracy government, though it is an open secret that PASOK gave no priority to planning and reorganizing Greek foreign policy in order to link it more closely to defense policy. On the contrary, frequent differences broke out between the foreign affairs and defense ministers. One example of the shortcomings inherited by the ND government in that sphere is that Greece not only did not state the strategic outlines of its policy, it did not even try to adapt its organizational mechanism and mode of implementing policy to contemporary requirements. At best, the Foreign Ministry reflects conditions that were prevailing back in the 1980s, which naturally were very different from the more complicated and nuanced ones of today. This problematic delay in updating organizational processes affects the quality of information available to the political leadership and disrupts avenues of coordination between top figures, leading to superficial judgments, even by deputy ministers. The government must rethink not only the content of our foreign policy, but how we exercise it. And that demands hard work, inter-party cooperation and a serious approach, since what matters is for Greece to have a long-term, stable foreign policy that will adjust to the challenges of the future without being negated or simply tossed aside by the first change of government.