OPINION

Being pragmatic on Turkish issues

The appointment of General Yasar Buyukanit as chief of staff by Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer confirmed that despite the rule of the Islamic-leaning government in Ankara the influence of the traditional establishment remains strong. Buyukanit’s appointment as head of the powerful military came at a difficult time for Turkey, which is having trouble meeting European Union demands and principles. Meanwhile, reluctance in Europe to see this predominately Muslim state join the EU club is growing. Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, currently at the helm of the EU’s rotating presidency, voiced his opposition to the prospect of Turkey becoming a full EU member and expressed skepticism over accepting Balkan candidates. Instead Schuessel proposed establishing special ties with Ukraine, Russia and the countries of the eastern Mediterranean. Sensing the negative mood toward Ankara, Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis last week said that Greece is working on an alternative policy in case Turkey fails to move forward in its drive to join the EU. Bakoyannis’s cryptic comments signaled a possible return to bilateral attempts to improve Greek-Turkish ties and at the same time a distancing from the conviction that the EU could become a catalyst for solving bilateral problems – a popular concept over the previous years. Finally, General Buyukanit’s appointment combined with nascent EU skepticism toward Ankara’s European ambitions should stop Greece from sending Greek troops to peacemaking operations abroad on the grounds that doing so will enhance Greece’s status in the NATO alliance and, by extension, on a global level.