Policy and public relations

Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis’s official visit to the USA and the cordial meetings she had in Washington with President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice were certainly a public relations victory. Far more important is what happened in these meetings and which issues provoked consensus or disagreement. Bakoyannis’s problem as foreign minister is that her many public statements as Athens mayor on the Cyprus problem and Greek-Turkish relations may have appealed to some foreign countries but not to the US. America’s indisputable power hardly obliges it to monitor lightweights like Greece. If some Americans looked forward to Bakoyannis’s appointment as foreign minister, it is because they had expected her to impose her agenda upon the Cyprus issue and Greek-Turkish relations. But what is certain is that Greece’s new foreign minister will be obliged to follow the standing diplomatic line. Bakoyannis and Rice both referred to a likely resumption of Cyprus talks, without mentioning the Annan plan. But both are aware that the chief negotiator on Cyprus is President Tassos Papadopoulos, who stood up to pressure from George W. Bush during deliberation of the UN secretary-general’s plan. As for Greek-Turkish ties, Greece is the only country which refers to Turkey with detachment for fear of provoking angry reactions in Ankara. This is a classic case of self-censorship, for which one cannot blame Bakoyannis alone. What really interests Washington are developments in the Balkans where the US and Greece are ostensibly «strategic partners,» though each side interprets this differently. Official visits will continue, but policy is more important.