Without a strategy

Greece’s accession to what was then the European Economic Community in 1981 was hailed as a major achievement because it signaled, in a political sense, the country’s departure from the region’s volatile and dangerous environment – typified by Turkey and the Balkans – and promised a rosier future. With the disintegration of Yugoslavia a decade later, in December 1991, Greece once again plunged into the Balkans imbroglio and strove to prevent the government in Skopje from usurping the name «Macedonia» for the new-born statelet, which the United States recently recognized by the name of «Republic of Macedonia.» Having failed to use its supposed EU membership leverage to influence the leadership of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), the government of Costas Karamanlis is now trying to reach a settlement on the name dispute and is threatening to block the Balkan state’s European aspirations, but its chances appear slim. Greece has adopted a different policy over Turkey, assuming that the allure of European membership would be enough to tame Ankara and consolidate peace in the region. Our eastern neighbor is now likely to get an EU talks date on December 17. But our EU peers should not have agreed even to take up the application of a state which refuses to recognize the government of an existing member (Cyprus) and which threatens to wage war on another (Greece) should it apply international law on the extent of its territorial waters. Turkey, on the other hand, is seeking – and may well get – a selective form of membership of the EU because the regime in Ankara has a strong sense of history, mission and geostrategic reality. Turkey still inspires fear in Athens, while most Western European states and Washington downplay some of its characteristics and emphasize others in order to rationalize their support for Ankara’s candidacy. The US has praised Turkey’s secular character and portrayed it as a model Muslim country that is part of the Western alliance. Together with its close European partners, it has pushed for Turkey’s EU accession. Though they were taken by surprise when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized the harshness of American tactics in Iraq, the Americans have backed Turkey’s EU entry because of the need to accommodate Turkey within the broader Western political framework.