Rude awakening

The views of the Greek Ambassador to Ankara, Ioannis Korantis, concerning Turkey’s ambitions in Thrace, the Aegean Sea and Cyprus, and which came to light yesterday, are at odds with the climate of moderation which has been nourished by the rhetoric of Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s government in recent years. In his annual report, the Greek diplomat gives a lucid description of what Athens has been reluctant to face: The ambitions by the post-Kemal regime to demilitarize the Greek islands of the eastern Aegean and to establish an unofficial joint administration in western Thrace. It is not the first time that such views have been made public. This time, however, they are being voiced by a senior state official at a time when the Greek public is sinking ever deeper into a state of Mithridatism. The relaxed climate which has recently characterized Greek-Turkish relations is unquestionably a positive development for both peoples, but it would be very dangerous to view this benign state of affairs as a long-term condition. The Greek public ought to be prepared for a return to a tense climate. Averting such an unfavorable development does not only depend on the political will of Athens. It also presupposes a similar stance by Ankara, which unfortunately remains set on an expansionist policy. It is only a matter of time before things come to a head, which would put the ongoing experiment of a Greek-Turkish rapprochement to the test. The prospect of European Union membership does not have sufficient allure for Turkey’s military elite. They tried to win EU candidate status at the Helsinki summit but are not willing to make the necessary reforms. They think – and their belief is not ungrounded – that the Europeanization process undermines the foundations of the post-Kemal regime. They place more weight on Turkey’s relations with the USA and are less interested in setting Turkey on the path toward EU membership. For this reason, it seems most likely that Turkey’s candidacy will degenerate into a special relationship with the EU from which both sides will take what they want. The EU will have free access to Turkish markets, while the post-Kemal regime will have a privileged role on issues of European security. The victim, should this scenario be realized, would not just be the European aspirations of Turkey’s progressive thinkers; it would also be Athens’s hopes of taming the beast.

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.