Flag of opportunity

It is common knowledge that Greece’s foreign policy is treading a narrow path. Even the most optimistic officials inside the ruling camp have recently been thrown into concern. The pace was first set by Prime Minister Costas Simitis himself who actually initiated a meeting with opposition party leaders. The government has once again turned national solidarity into a flag of opportunity, hence this essential need is being held ransom to partisan skirmishing. It is an open secret that the government is seeking a way to overcome the logjam regarding the Euroforce issue. Orchestrated by Washington, pressure on Athens has intensified in an attempt to forge the so-called Ankara document by the coming Seville summit – at the latest. It is worth noting that the prime minister is not the only one who is under pressure; New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis is also under pressure to tone down his criticism so as to facilitate the government’s retreat. Even though the Euroforce issue is independent from developments in the Cyprus dispute, some of Greece’s partners may well try to connect the two. In other words, it is very likely that they will try to hinder Cyprus’s EU accession if Athens does not lift its objections to the Ankara document. We are, no doubt, entering a very difficult period and hence rumors of a disagreement between the premier and Foreign Minister George Papandreou on the handling of this crucial issue complicate things even more. People in the know are aware that senior PASOK officials have dropped innuendoes against Papandreou. This internal rift is, of course, part of the underlying race for succession but, on the other hand, it also remains a substantial problem. Papandreou’s absence from the recent Cabinet meeting on foreign policy was not coincidental. His illness proved to be a diplomatic maneuver, a fact which raises questions over the potential repercussions on our national issues of this divergence tactic. In any case, it is unacceptable that there are disagreements between himself and his foreign minister at a time when the prime minister is seeking solidarity from the opposition on the government’s foreign policy. Similarly, it is unacceptable that during such a crucial period, national interest succumbs to personal objectives of succession.