Bound by the past

The outcome of the EU’s Brussels summit should prompt neither euphoric statements by the ruling party nor a harsh critique from the opposition. What the European governments agreed on with respect to Ankara’s EU bid, Turkey’s recognition of the Republic of Cyprus and references to Greek-Turkish disputes in the summit’s conclusions, are not separate political chapters. They did not make a simultaneous appearance on the diplomatic stage so that they could get emergency treatment. The ruling New Democracy party and opposition PASOK, which was in power between 1993 and March 2004, are both well aware of the true implications of these issues. For Athens and Nicosia to become engaged in this crucial diplomatic game of EU-Turkish relations, they had both agreed on some very important points in the early 1990s. The price that Greece had to pay in Brussels on December 17 so its EU peers could render Turkey’s accession negotiations as difficult as possible was the result of a very specific foreign policy dogma on Turkey. That joint ND-PASOK dogma (backing Ankara’s EU bid as beneficial to Greek national interests) has inevitably placed limits on how far Athens can go in both Greek-Turkish affairs and the defense of Cyprus. In effect, the power of Athens and Nicosia to block Ankara’s EU ambitions was only theoretical. In practice, they did not possess sufficient political clout to do so. Last Friday, Athens simply could not, with one sweeping move, undo all the concessions it had made up until now. EU-Turkish ties have improved over the past decade, thanks to Greece’s support of Ankara’s European ambitions and a number of important compromises in the name of the dogma. Those who complain of a lost opportunity, especially with reference to December 17, are those who are wont to turn their backs on harsh reality.