Shows of militancy

Once again serious issues of Greek foreign policy are in the spotlight, offering parties and politicians the opportunity to use a special sort of discourse which is of little use to those who want to understand the issues better. A few days ago, the FYROM name issue provided an opportunity for a torrent of declarations and comments by politicians, especially from the opposition. Subsequently, further opportunities for lofty rhetoric arose from matters directly connected to Turkish policy on the Aegean and Cyprus. Two elements generally mark these (usually brief) periods of tension. First, those in question ruthlessly carve up the political background to the issues so as to indicate exactly when their political opponents were responsible for them. Second, they seem not to understand that the exercise of foreign policy is not limited to communiques issued by multi-member organizations that Greek governments have agreed to and signed from time to time. In relation to these two points, we do not specifically distinguish between New Democracy and PASOK orators, since the vast majority of both parties discuss issues in the same fashion. But we do single out George Papandreou, the leader of the opposition, who for years served as minister of foreign affairs. His rhetoric should avoid the elementary analysis of foreign issues which some of his own officials indulge in (mainly when appearing on television), and the use of certain phrases which he mistakenly believes add a populist touch and a vaguely militant element to his style. With a crucial PASOK congress in sight, Papandreou is undoubtedly being pressured by factions within his party to make a show of dynamic opposition. But foreign policy is not the appropriate field for such demonstrations by an opposition leader.