A Plan B for the day after

Chief of the Turkish General Staff Yasar Buyukanit will visit Athens next week. A few days later, the European Commission is expected to publish a report on the progress of Turkey’s EU membership negotiations, a document that will define the course of EU-Turkish relations in the months to come. It’s not hard to imagine what the day after will look like. The obstacles in Turkey’s EU path are set to multiply as meeting the EU’s membership criteria is a process that runs against the very structure of the Turkish state. The closer Ankara gets to fulfilling its commitments to the bloc, particularly in the area of human rights, the bigger the threat to the nation’s integrity will be, as millions of people will be able to express their views freely. When the Turkish state gets a taste of real democracy, when its ethnic mosaic gets a chance to speak out, when the violation of political rights comes to an end, Ankara will be faced with unprecedented phenomena. Its reaction will be violent – or not at all. For many years, Greece’s Turkey policy has been built on the conviction that Ankara will tread the European path. But as time goes by, this conviction is waning. Even if Turkey somehow managed to overcome all domestic obstacles, who can guarantee that the parliaments of France, Germany or Austria will give the green light to Turkish membership? Worse still, Greece’s political system is driven by another hidden conviction, namely that Greek support for Ankara’s bid will avert bilateral tension should membership negotiations hit the rocks. The naivete of this conviction has become clear. An impasse in Brussels could make Greek-Turkish relations spin out of control. Turkey’s EU course is beyond Greece. That does not mean that Greece must not hammer out a Plan B in case talks falter. Such a plan can only be based on the country’s defensive self-sufficiency coupled with a convincing display of political determination.