Politics and middlemen

The relationship between the European Union and Turkey was not on the agenda of talks during the unofficial EU summit that took place last week in the Finnish town of Lahti. As a consequence, neither Greece nor Cyprus were subjected to any coordinated pressure from anxious Union partners with the aim of sweeping away the obstacles in Turkey’s European Union-oriented path and ensuring that its accession to the bloc is secured. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s meeting with Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos on Friday morning did not highlight any change in the opinions of the two leaders, as some had hoped it would. The suggested discrepancy in outlook, according to which the leaders of Greece and Cyprus agree on strategic goals but disagree regarding the tactics that should be followed in order to achieve them, was revealed to be a clumsy tightrope walk by amateurs. On the contrary, the climate in which the meeting between Karamanlis and Papadopoulos took place was extremely positive and Athens made clear its intention to throw its full support behind Nicosia during a difficult phase when certain EU member states are striving to ensure that Ankara remains on course for European Union accession, even if this ends up hurting the interests of Cyprus, which is already a member state. All those who forecast danger and national misfortunes in the event of Turkey’s European Union derailment – particularly a derailment provoked at Nicosia’s initiative – are most likely wasting their energy. These were the same individuals who had warned of total catastrophe should the Annan plan for Cyprus be rejected – and were proven to be completely wrong. A derailment in EU-Turkish relations may occur but it will certainly not be any fatal blow to ties; if it does occur, it is likely to constitute a temporary suspension in the accession procedure which was, in any case, foreseen in the road map approved by Ankara when accession talks began just over a year ago. Of course, it would be preferable if a clash could be avoided, but if this is to happen there must exist a mutual desire for cooperation and not this constant show of power from Ankara’s side. From a political point of view, we have quite a lot of time until the European summit takes place in December, and no one can really accurately speculate about the exact outcome of this much-anticipated event. It is only now that the debate on EU-Turkish ties is really getting under way. So last week’s meeting between Karamanlis and Papadopoulos in Finland was of the utmost significance. Of similar importance will be the Greek prime minister’s clarification of Athens’s stance as regards EU-Turkish relations and of Ankara’s obligations toward Cyprus, which is expected to be outlined in a parliamentary debate on foreign policy issues over the next few weeks. In the countdown to December’s European Union summit, Karamanlis appears to have chosen a policy of sending out clear messages to third parties as regards EU-Turkish relations and Cyprus. This is certainly preferable to our current passive foreign policy which consists of little more than simply handling affairs.