The odd one out, again

The meeting between Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and her Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul on Monday on the sidelines of the UN’s Security Council meeting comes at a crucial moment, both for Greece and its eastern neighbor. The moment of truth is approaching. The forthcoming European Commission report on Turkey’s progress is expected to show Ankara a few red cards. French presidential contender Nicolas Sarkozy warned last week that as long as Turkey fails to see that the EU is a union of 25 members, talks between the bloc and the predominantly Muslim nation must freeze. Britain stands in opposition to Sarkozy, insisting that Turkey must not be tilted off the European track – the prospect of putting Ankara’s EU talks on hold would be a disaster for the British government. Britain fears that a breakdown in negotiations would require a unanimous decision to revive them. In other words, Britain rightly deems that EU leaders will be unwilling to let Turkey into their club and they will most likely propose some form of special relationship. Bakoyannis is clearly in favor of the US-British viewpoint, which is also shared by some of her EU peers – yet not by the motors of European integration, France and Germany. During the rule of the late Andreas Papandreou, Greece was the odd man out as it stubbornly obstructed Turkey’s path to Europe. Today Bakoyannis plays a similar part by running against the dominant trend of skepticism toward Ankara’s EU ambitions. But unlike Papandreou’s time, Athens and Nicosia no longer form a solid unified front as demonstrated by the distance that separates Bakoyannis from Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos. For all these reasons, what the two ministers exchange in private as well as in public is of great importance to both states.