A triumph for selective memories

During last week’s extraordinary parliamentary debate on foreign policy issues, the leaders of the country’s two major parties made no attempt to defend their respective policies, if one exempts the usual rhetorical flourishes. Perhaps they did not feel sure enough about those policies to defend them confidently. They did, however, make feeble attempts to justify themselves, each condemning the mistakes, shortfalls and compromises of the other. Once again, it was a triumph of selective memory. As regards relations between Turkey and the European Union, both leaders backed Ankara’s EU bid in their own ways, both stressing the «taming the beast» policy as the most reliable approach. Both studiously avoided mentioning the fact that this approach has failed to promote our national interests in any significant way. And both leaders also steered clear of the really thorny issue – that full EU accession for Turkey would have serious negative repercussions for Greece. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis referred to the need for Ankara to revoke its «casus belli» stance, according to which any attempt by Greece to extend its territorial waters would be considered a declaration of war. However, Karamanlis failed to explain why in December 2004 he did not insist upon revoking the casus belli declaration as a condition for the launch of accession negotiations between the EU and Turkey. PASOK chief George Papandreou referred to this and also criticized the government for allowing Turkey’s extension of its EU customs agreement to Cyprus – Ankara’s obligation as an EU candidate state – to become a negotiating chip for Ankara. Papandreou probably did not have the right to be quite so critical of the government’s policy on Cyprus. We must remember that the opposition chief not only declared himself in favor of the Annan plan – which would have effectively abolished the Republic of Cyprus before the island’s accession to the EU – but had also indulged in scaremongering in an effort to push Greek Cypriots into backing the plan. It is quite clear from last week’s performance that both political leaders have exceptional talent as critics. Their rhetoric during last week’s parliamentary debate was well-targeted and often scathing. But what is really difficult to evaluate is the substance of their respective political visions. Karamanlis’s assertion that the two main parties converge on the burning issues, despite differing on a tactical level, is quite correct. So the real question is not whether a domestic policy exists but whether it serves our national interests, as it should.

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