Consensus without teeth

Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s meetings with the leaders of the opposition parties, somewhat late in coming, confirmed a consensus which to a great extent already existed, but of course did nothing to strengthen Greece’s position. After all, the country’s importance on the international stage reflects its actual importance and has nothing to do with unanimity among its political leaders. Simitis boasts that he has made Greece stronger than before, that its presence is felt within the European Union and NATO and that it is an equal partner in the decision-making process. This impressive «progress» that allows Simitis such a self-congratulatory note is nowhere in evidence, since the only thing the Greek government has done on major foreign policy issues – such as Cyprus’s imminent entry into the EU in December and the Euroforce imbroglio – is to threaten to exercise its right of veto. If a country is forced to use this threat once again, this quite simply means that either its interests are not compatible with the goals of the EU, or that it has been sorely lacking in diplomacy in handling these issues. In effect, the latter means that the government has failed. Simitis also boasts about a rapprochement with Turkey – for which Foreign Minister George Papandreou has reaped praise – and by supporting Turkey’s desire to join Europe, it has managed not only to make its problem with Turkey a European issue but also to defend the national interest, since the Europeanization of Turkey makes that Muslim country less dangerous for Greece. If this is true, and if this is what determines the Simitis government’s policies, then one must wonder why there is so much concern over the Ankara agreement, which gives Turkey and other NATO allies who are not members of the EU an important role in planning and carrying out EU military operations. Turkey’s rapprochement with the EU cannot be built on economic convergence, nor of course at the level of democratic institutions.Turkey can only offer its geographical position and its military power. Nor can Greece’s security be ensured by excluding Turkey from multinational defense mechanisms, for if there has been no war between Greece and Turkey in the last 60 years, that is due to the fact that the two countries are members of a powerful alliance – NATO. Greece does in fact have a security problem, but it is only possible to deal with it by enhancing its armed forces and cultivating a high morale. Exercising its right to veto the Ankara agreement does nothing to defend the country’s territorial integrity, but simply is a nuisance.