OPINION

Commentary

The face-to-face talks between Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, due to begin in Nicosia tomorrow, and the meeting of NATO’s foreign ministers in Brussels on Friday to discuss Turkey’s objections to the use by the European rapid reaction force of NATO military infrastructure and facilities are crucial less because of their possible outcome – as this is expected to be of minor importance – and more because they will put to the test soR£ ÄRÃpermeating GRá e’s foreign policy. The first idea is that Turkey’s European orientation and Cyprus’s course toward accession have sparked a fierce debate in Turkey which may gradually lead to a revision of Ankara’s stance on the Cyprus issue. The remarks by Turkey’s National Security Council last week, which referred to a confederal solution and to the recognition of two «states» and «ethnic groups» on Cyprus was, frivolously, interpreted as a moderate shift by Ankara. At the same time, the view expressed by the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen Association (TUSIAD) over the need to solve the Cyprus problem so as not to obstruct the country’s European prospects was interpreted as another clear signal of Turkey’s shift. TUSIAD’s position invited criticism by Turkey’s Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit who, referring to the Clerides-Denktash talks, underscored the need for recognition of the existence of two »states» and «ethnic groups» on Cyprus. A reference to these particular remarks would be unnecessary were there not a strong tendency among Greek policymakers to interpret desires as real facts. Greek-Turkish relations need to be stable and tension-free, but cultivating expectations which are most likely to be dashed jeopardizes stability no less than unfettered rhetorical confrontation does. It is naive to talk about a revision of the basic canons of Turkish foreign policy as a result of the deep economic crisis when the political elite has been totally discredited and the armed forces is the only guarantor of stability. On the other hand, at the NATO foreign ministers’ meeting this Friday, Greece will have the opportunity to evaluate the way in which its allies intend to tackle the problem of Turkey’s demand to take part in the planning of Europe’s military operations. Because EU countries wish to cultivate the illusion of an independent European defense, they will not accept Turkey’s participation in decision-making. It is likely, however, that they will agree to exclude the Aegean Sea now – and Cyprus when it enters the EU – from their area of operations. The Greek government threatens to veto any such decision. The question is to what extent will this veto be sustained if there is an agreement between Turkey and the other NATO members inside the EU. Finally, talk of intervention by the European army in case of crisis in the Aegean Sea or Cyprus is pure fiction as this is not provided for in the charter. But even in cases where the charter rules support in the event of attack, it was either made clear that this does not apply to Greece and Turkey, as happened with NATO in 1981, or led to changes in the charter, as happened with the Western European Union (WEU) after Greece joined in 1992. The country’s defense, for good or ill, is the responsibility of the state and the government, independently of its participation in major organizations such as NATO or the EU.