Looking for Plan B

Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis recently told a conference of Greek diplomats that her ministry was developing an alternative strategy in the event that Turkey’s accession process to the European Union fails – an undesirable outcome, as she said. «We are developing economic cooperation with Turkey in every way, creating important new joint energy networks and seeking solutions to all our problems,» she said Joint bilateral economic interests help to stabilize political relations but they are not the most important factor in establishing those relations. In long-term cold war conflicts, they play a minor role. In Greek-Turkish relations, they are even more negligible due to the nature of the Turkish regime. Economic cooperation is useful as long as it does not create unilateral dependence. A statement by Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, made at the same meeting, that from now on Turkey could possibly be Greece’s main supplier of natural gas, perhaps even petroleum, is worrying. The minister said this would affect the equilibrium between the two countries but avoided mentioning the fact that this would lead to an energy dependence that could prove serious during a bilateral crisis, and certainly a disadvantage in negotiations. «Seeking a solution to all our problems» is not an alternative strategy. Bakoyannis said Athens is not giving Ankara a «blank check,» but a general demand for respect for borders and sovereign rights has no political clout, since the Turks always interpret treaties and international law as they please. A demand to lift the casus belli, on the other hand, is specific, but something that Greece has not yet officially asked. Athens is missing opportunities. Now that Turkey’s initial enthusiasm for the EU is waning, it will be less willing to give way on its expansionists claims. This means that there will be even fewer opportunities.

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