Dangerous pretext

Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis’s visit to Istanbul tomorrow is a sign that Athens continues to support Ankara’s European Union ambitions in hopes that the process will bring stability to bilateral relations. That said, the meeting comes during a difficult period. First, the public is growing more and more skeptical of the above policy. According to a VPRC poll this week, 60 percent of Greeks are now against Turkey’s EU bid (30 percent claim to be in favor). The government will find it harder to keep up with the policy so long as Ankara fails to loosen its intransigent stance. The eventual rejection by both mainstream parties of ex-president Costis Stephanopoulos’s proposal to take bilateral disputes with Turkey to The Hague has also impacted on public perceptions of such a move – at least for now. Some 58 percent said they do not trust the tribunal with the issue while 38 percent believe they can. Worse, ongoing Balkan developments are having a negative effect on Greek-Turkish ties. The seemingly unstoppable independence drive of Kosovo will legitimate secession via military force on the pretext of humanitarian intervention to protect a minority. The pretext is similar to the one used to justify Turkey’s invasion and occupation of northern Cyprus. Independence for Kosovo will increase Turkish aggression toward Nicosia, which will also impact on relations with Greece. Athens and Nicosia must brace for a political and diplomatic battle inside and outside the EU and try to pre-empt any Turkish propaganda on those grounds. In fact, there are many states inside the EU that would be willing to side with Greece on forcing stricter Turkish compliance with European principles. But the government will have to reach out to them first.

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