OPINION

Greece as a punching bag

Could it be that Greece is not the punching bag of the region, after all? We grew up amid stories portraying Greece as the persecuted nation, the perennial victim that suffers one diplomatic blow after the other. Just look around you. Look at what Greece accomplished at NATO’s summit in Bucharest. Greece’s veto of Skopje’s NATO membership was the first such move in the history of the transatlantic alliance. What had previously been seen as an annoying fixation on behalf of Greece was eventually included in a joint NATO communique as official NATO policy. Greece did enough to spoil US President George W. Bush’s last European party, but none of its allies made any big deal of it. Friends and foes are trying to see how Greece pulled this one off, how this spoiled child of the West always manages to get what it wants in the end, even when it looks impossible. Officials, diplomats and journalists across the Aegean like to discuss how Greece always gets what it wants. After all, Athens managed to push Cyprus into the European Union in spite of the reluctance of existing EU members, particularly over the unresolved Cyprus dispute. Similarly, Nicosia got away with rejecting the UN reunification plan and it had to face nothing more than an absence of diplomatic tact toward Tassos Papadopoulos by his European peers. And, as if that were not enough, Cyprus has emerged from all this ready to negotiate a new plan from a better bargaining position. It’s time we accepted the fact that we are a normal European country. We belong to the eurozone; we are members of the most exclusive international clubs, but we just like playing the victim. It makes us feel better when we achieve something. We must look at the world with greater self-confidence, strengthened by an outward-looking private sector that wants to escape the suffocating national borders and take on the world. It seems that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will finally be able to resolve the Macedonia name dispute. It will not be easy, but if Athens insists on a one-name solution and stays clear of traps, the government will see this through. And then it should take on the Cyprus issue. The election of a new president in Nicosia and the presence of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a Turkish politician who is on relatively good terms with Karamanlis, have raised new hopes for a settlement. But what shall we grumble about if we solve these two issues? How shall we then indulge ourselves with the sweet pain of the role of the powerless victim? Perhaps then we shall finally realize that it’s not others who are after us but that we who have found comfort in the idleness of decay, the cynicism, and the ease of corruption that have all set the bar so extremely low. Because when pushed abroad, we have proved capable of clearing the highest of bars.