The foreign policy wager

The Cabinet yesterday reconfirmed the foreign policy line, the central theme of which is Greece’s strategic decision to participate in the European Union’s hard core, regardless of its future shape. In order to serve this strategy the prime minister is both harmonizing the country’s foreign policy with Western policies and encouraging deeper European integration. It is no coincidence that Athens favors transforming the European Union into a federation without first holding a public debate, like other EU member states have done. As regards Cyprus, Athens’s primary aim is that country’s EU accession and, if possible, the resolution of the political dispute in negotiations that started on Wednesday. Concerning the Greek-Turkish dispute, Foreign Minister George Papandreou’s strategic wager is to lure Ankara into the EU accession talks. He believes the post-Kemal regime will be forced to adapt its political behavior to European standards in order to keep its EU prospects alive. The policy of taming the beast does not, of course, guarantee a positive outcome, and this long process will inevitably be full of potential pitfalls for our national interests. Simitis’s government is trying to postpone developments until 2004 when – according to the decisions of the EU’s Helsinki summit – the mechanism for referring any problems to the International Court of Justice at The Hague will come into force. Until then, it is trying to keep a cool climate in the Aegean Sea, and to avoid being caught up in comprehensive negotiations over the Aegean’s status, which is Ankara’s objective. The problem is that Simitis’s government has not worked out alternative policies for tackling Turkish provocations. It merely confines itself to avoiding actions that would spoil the climate. In this way, however, it runs the risk not only of sending the wrong signals across the Aegean, but also of trapping itself into the logic of buying the good climate with profoundly painless compromises. Finally, in the Balkans the government has tried, and partly managed, to promote Greece as an exalted mediator selling European prospects, NATO membership, economic aid and investment, risking only that important issues could be downgraded because they might hurt bilateral relations.

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