Greece’s ostpolitik

Turkey’s EU membership aspirations appear to be a main casualty of the crisis triggered by the French and Dutch rejection by referendum of the European Constitution. Former Commission president Romano Prodi, who could become Italy’s prime minister after a general election next year, has said that «the conditions now are no longer there for Turkey’s entry in the short or medium term.» In Germany, Angela Merkel, leader of the main opposition conservatives, is favored to win an early general election. She has made opposition to full Turkish membership the main platform of her Christian Democratic Union party. Even French President Jacques Chirac, once a warm advocate of Ankara’s bid, is now stressing the need to define Europe’s geographical limits. Finally, it was US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick who urged Ankara «to look beyond the EU to a global context.» Athens must adapt to these shifting parameters. By lifting its objection to Turkish EU prospects, Greece materialized an «ostpolitik» toward Turkey – much like the West did with the former communist countries of Eastern Europe – while not becoming the scapegoat for other European nations who did not want Turkey in the EU. Greece should be wary of being too keen on backing Turkey’s bid. In fact, too much zeal could cost Athens key continental allies and leave it only with the gratification of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, from whom the government can expect little, be it on the Cyprus issue or the community budget. Political pragmatism may advise us against imitating the French and German parliaments, which raised the Armenian genocide issue. Yet Merkel also said it would be disastrous if Ankara did not recognize Cyprus before the start of membership talks, and it’s hard to see why these comments did not resonate in Athens.

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