Postponing accession

We will have to wait until the end of the year to see whether the premier’s remark that «2002 will be a year for foreign policy» will come true or not. For the time being, the political elite is preoccupied with other issues, not with bilateral relations. The government is soft-pedaling the issue of Greek-Turkish talks on the Aegean Sea dispute, as Greece’s foreign minister is said to have realized that Ankara is demanding much more than what the government can possibly concede at this time. Therefore, Greece is now proceeding with slow, more cautious steps. Things look different with the Cyprus issue, as developments in the coming months are likely to bring foreign policy to the forefront and cause severe tribulations at home should the issue of Cyprus’s accession take a bad turn. For the time being, Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash’s intransigence leaves no room for an acceptable solution. The Helsinki decision (which made accession independent of any political settlement) may officially be respected in the EU and some European officials may state that accession will take place regardless of whether a solution to the political dispute has been found, but backstage everyone knows that our European peers are not prepared to allow Cyprus in without a prior settlement. Furthermore, their concerns have been legitimized by the Helsinki document, according to which the Council’s decision on accession «will take account of all relevant factors.» Also, the March 1995 document which marked the beginning of accession negotiations said that these would benefit the entire island. Any pessimistic thoughts would perhaps be premature, but the Greek government should be prepared to face the prospect of a postponement of the island’s accession in December for as long as the political dispute remains unresolved.