Diplomatic impetus

Political foes and commentators have often accused Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis of dragging his feet on crucial diplomatic and foreign policy issues. A series of recent developments, however, have proved them wrong. First, we seem to be edging closer to a final settlement on the name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Second, Turkey is apparently considering ditching its decade-old policy of viewing any extension by Greece of its territorial waters in the Aegean as a cause for war, as Turkish Parliament Speaker Bulent Arinc, in a surprise move, recently proposed scrapping his country’s «casus belli» policy against Greece. Greece has suddenly been catapulted from a state of apparent inertia to one of heightened expectation. No country likes to be faced with too many foreign relations problems, but settling outstanding issues can sometimes create a sense of uncertainty as compromise does not always ensure stability. Athens believes that, in its effort to meet European Union norms and standards, Ankara is revising some of its policies that are out of line with the EU acquis communautaire. No doubt this argument makes sense. But the more interesting aspect of Ankara’s latest move was the manner in which Arinc signaled Turkey’s change of course. Arinc suggested that Turkish legislators had never really voted the «casus belli» policy against Greece. Rather, a group of Turkish deputies during Tansu Ciller’s tenure as prime minister read out a text in Parliament which was then applauded by their colleagues; but there was never an official vote count. Given that the policy was never brought to a formal vote in Turkey’s Parliament, there is arguably no reason for a new parliamentary decision to remove the threat against Athens. Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul is said to have disagreed with Arinc’s comments and a lot of uncertainty surrounds the whole issue. In any case, Arinc’s sudden intervention creates a more positive mood in advance of Molyviatis’s two-day visit to Turkey tomorrow. Regarding the FYROM name dispute, UN special envoy and mediator Matthew Nimetz proposed that the name «Republika Makedonjia-Skopje» be used in the United Nations and other international organizations. With all due respect for the decade-long diplomatic campaign, the proposed solution is a nonsensical one, while the problem itself has emerged because of absurd moves by successive Greek governments. The FYROM name issue would carry little importance for Greece today if Athens had been confident enough following the breakup of Yugoslavia to push its influence northward in order to confirm its leverage beyond narrow national borders. Rather, successive governments wasted their energy in a lengthy diplomatic marathon that brought no rewards. Given that virtually all Greek political parties would like to see a compromise solution, New Democracy’s conservative government was right to back the Nimetz proposal. We have yet to see FYROM’s reaction. Should the compromise name be adopted, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis should brace for domestic reactions, particularly in northern Greece. The only consolation is that just when the government seemed to have lost its footing, something seems to be moving in foreign policy. It remains to be seen what is in store for us.

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