Hammering out a road map

The edgy European debate over the launch of Turkey’s membership talks has come to a close. But the outcome of the negotiations remains open-ended. The European Union’s talks with Turkey will be different from its negotiations with previous candidates. They will be profoundly political, as many governments are expected to take advantage of the process to winch Ankara onto the alternate track of special partnership. Greece’s official position is that Turkey should be awarded full membership on the condition that it meets its obligations to the full. Costas Karamanlis’s conservative government has come under fire from opposition parties who accuse it of squandering a unique opportunity to impose specific commitments on bilateral issues. In any case, after-the-fact discussions have little to offer on how to grapple with the looming diplomatic challenges. Even if we accept the (arguably overoptimistic) official position that the negotiating framework guarantees Greece’s national aspirations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should have by now hammered out a detailed road map for Turkey – a plan that would accommodate all likely scenarios. Regrettably, the government has so far failed to come up with any such plan. This omission must be corrected as soon as possible. The truth is that Greece was more royalist than the king in pushing Turkey’s EU ambitions. However, the much-hyped benefits that are expected to derive from the process of Ankara’s so-called Europeanization will not come without putting pressure on Turkey. For that to happen, Athens and Nicosia must take advantage of the relevant provisions mentioned in the negotiation document. Foreign policy makers cannot afford to leave things on autopilot. Greek diplomats should be working on proposals, arguments and different scenarios. It seems likely that Ankara will try to skirt its responsibilities or, at least, lower the bar of EU demands – particularly regarding Greece and Cyprus-related issues. Greece must draw clear lines on its issues of interest and seek to form alliances with EU peers. Here’s a place for action.