Hope as a substitute for policy

Ten years after Prime Minister Costas Simitis declared his intention to improve ties with Turkey, it is unclear what progress has been made and what prospects exist. Turkey never loses an opportunity to stress – in words and deeds – that its expansionist goals remain unchanged. Even when Ankara needed Greek and Cypriot approval in order to embark on accession talks with the European Union, it not only failed to show any good will but intensified its provocations. The Turks have never hidden their intentions. After the EU approved the launch of talks, Ankara said it would not change its stances on Cyprus and the Aegean. But it is not Turkey’s fault that the Greek political elite has been fostering hopes with no bearing on reality for so many years; this same political elite has failed to exploit our massive defense expenditure to boost defenses or increase the effectiveness of our foreign policy. Tuesday’s collision in the Aegean was statistically predictable. But it also brings back to the fore the hostility of Turkey’s expansionism in the Aegean. Athens has been pursuing an approach of «detente» with Ankara but this cannot be a substitute for policy. If relations are to be improved, there must be good will on both sides. But all evidence shows that Ankara’s provocations and coercive diplomacy will not disappear. Good relations would benefit both countries, not just ours. This should be self-evident, but unfortunately is not. Certain commentators maintain that Greece could achieve a detente by indirectly yielding to Turkish demands and making some apparently painless concessions. But this stance assumes the existence of unequal terms in Greek-Turkish relations and will only serve to intensify Turkish hostility.