OPINION

Solidarity

Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s belated call for «national solidarity» and the dramatic tone he adopted last week in describing the current phase of Greece’s key foreign policy concerns took place after a period of complacent self-confidence and arrogance and after poor tactical maneuvers that turned the Euroforce into a central point of division between Greece and its EU and NATO peers. At the same time, this development created an unfavorable climate in the domestic political arena. The paradox is that the internal solidarity that Simitis called for already exists, while there is clear cross-party support for the government’s declared political positions. Neither main opposition New Democracy nor any other party, whether represented in Parliament or not, have asked Simitis’s government to bend its policy line on the Cyprus dispute, which centers on the creation of a federal state with a single strong international status, which will allow the Republic of Cyprus to function effectively inside the European Union. All political parties, and above all the conservative opposition, have dismissed the possibility of Greece consenting to EU enlargement if Cyprus is not included in the first wave of countries to enter the Union, regardless of whether a solution to the island’s political dispute has been found. Finally, as regards the issue of Europe’s nascent rapid reaction force, Greece’s political leaders believe that alterations in the so-called Ankara document are imperative. This text was drawn up after extra-institutional consultations by the United States, Great Britain and Turkey, adopted by all of Greece’s EU and NATO partners, and gives Ankara (and all other NATO members that are not also EU members) the ability to play a substantial role in the planning of EU military operations. In light of the undoubted solidarity which pervades Greece’s political parties on the aforementioned foreign policy issues, Simitis’s belated call for unity last week was, at best, an attempt to deflect public attention from the extremely grim domestic political climate regarding crucial foreign policy concerns. It is possible that Simitis’s call was an attempt to restore inner-party harmony, which has been unsettled by the ongoing antagonism among PASOK’s aspirants for power and the orchestrated attacks on Foreign Minister George Papandreou, whom Simitis is inclined to support although occasionally giving the impression of distancing himself from the most popular of his ministers. However, none of these interpretations can constitute a framework for tackling foreign policy issues. They are inarticulate cries of the sort that Simitis usually attributes to the conservative opposition and the other political parties. What is really at stake is Cyprus’s EU prospect, which was originally seen as a major development in itself, but which could well turn into a reason for intensifying pressures on Greece to make further compromises regarding a solution of the political dispute. The second unpleasant prospect for Simitis’s government regards the Euroforce, which despite previous illusions over its role as a bulwark against Turkish expansionism, could well emerge as a NATO supplement in which Ankara will have an important say. The issue, then, is not whether Greece can display the requisite solidarity – which exists anyway – but whether a government with clear signs of disarray is able to deal with crucial foreign policy issues.