Clarifying Helsinki

Opposition leader George Papandreou’s calls for «strict conditions» before the Greek government gives the go-ahead for the start of Turkey’s EU membership talks are of no help to Athens’s diplomatic efforts for a positive outcome. The government bears responsibility for its decisions and it will be judged on their outcome. Nevertheless, Papandreou’s remarks can only cause further confusion. The Helsinki communique (1999), which he constantly invokes, came before 2002 (the Copenhagen summit) and thus is no longer binding on Turkey as regards its relations with Greece. Furthermore, since the Helsinki summit, Greek-Turkish matters («border disputes and other related issues») have been defined as bilateral issues, outside the sphere of EU responsibility. This is why the EU governments have rejected Greek demands that the pending summit conclusions on Turkey should include conditions with respect to Ankara’s claims on Greece. In other words, the arguments of our EU peers who say that the removal of the casus belli for Turkey is a bilateral issue that cannot be included as a condition in tomorrow’s text are all based on the conclusions of the Helsinki and Copenhagen summits. Furthermore, the opposition leader insists on turning a blind eye to the «border disputes and other related issues» and reiterates Costas Simitis’s position (which has nothing to do with the Helsinki document) that the Aegean continental shelf is the only subject of negotiation with Ankara. This, however, is not listed in any of the EU texts. Papandreou would do well to take another look at the EU’s strongly worded document sent to Ankara (July 15, 1996) after the Imia crisis. He will then realize the slide of the Socialist administration – when he was at the helm of the Foreign Ministry – until the eventual adoption of the Helsinki communique.