A tough equation

Given developments in Greek-Turkish relations since 1996, the response of Athens to the evolving EU-Turkey ties and the problem of Cyprus is complex. Views naturally differ on the issue. Barring, on one hand, the extreme views of some Foreign Ministry officials who rebuff all criticism as politically motivated and, on the other, attacks by those who slam any initiative as treason, much of the skepticism is well-founded. The ongoing diplomatic tussle in Brussels over Ankara’s EU bid was not a bolt out of the historical blue. Rather it’s part of a long chain of events sparked by the revision of Greece’s Turkey policy after Costas Simitis’s visit to Washington in 1996. Every single diplomatic step since then has been made in light of that landmark strategic U-turn. Athens could adopt a more hardline stance toward Turkey’s refusal to recognize Cyprus. That is, in theory. For in practice, switching to a more assertive mode is neither easy nor does it guarantee a favorable outcome for Greek and Cypriot ambitions. Moreover, a policy switch would only make sense if the conservative administration believed it could alter the agenda that has emerged over the previous years. After last year’s general election that gave power to the conservatives, the government is able to weigh Turkey’s EU bid against its own goals on the bilateral front. The mood in Europe over Turkey’s EU drive is clouded. Our EU peers who look like they’re having second thoughts about giving Ankara full membership either have no clear political motives or are belatedly expressing their previously hidden reservations. It’s a tough equation for Greek diplomacy. However, that does not mean the administration is left with no alternatives.