Wanted: Consistency

Greece has gained «absolutely nothing» from the EU Helsinki summit decisions, made in December 1999, Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said early yesterday. Government spokesman Christos Protopappas expressed a wholly different view. Not only did he hail the Helsinki decision as «extremely significant,» but he also made plain that «the government will carry on with the same strategy.» «No, I have no such fear,» Prime Minister Costas Simitis expressly said yesterday when questioned whether EU enlargement and Cyprus’s accession could result in open conflict, even military incidents, between Greece and Turkey. Papantoniou’s views were at odds with Simitis’s as he made reference to «Turkey’s intensified aggressiveness, which could escalate, reaching a point that could create problems for Greece.» «Therefore, I see obstacles to Cyprus’s EU accession, albeit not insurmountable ones… So long as the unilateral claims on the Aegean Sea and the continuing tragedy of Cyprus remain open issues, Greek-Turkish relations will not show substantial improvement,» he added. The government’s lack of consistency on key national issues is flagrantly echoed in official statements, let alone in backstage skirmishing between the foreign and defense minsters, mutual accusations, and protests to the prime minister urging him to demand that the other withdraw his remarks. The existence of different views within a party, as well as any aspirations for premiership nourished by senior party cadres, are both legitimate. What is unacceptable, though, is the subordination of national issues to personal objectives. Key national issues have entered a crucial phase. They require complex and subtle moves. Turkey’s aggressiveness has intensified, as reflected in the precipitous rise in violations of Greece’s national air space by Turkish fighter jets. Greece needs a foreign policy which is more than a mishmash of personal decisions. Government policy is inconsistent. Tomorrow, for example, the prime minister is due to meet with the ministers of defense and foreign affairs to discuss the Euroforce issue. At the same time, the Foreign Ministry and Maximos Mansion have leaked information that a compromise formula has been found. Defending our national interests is one thing. Entrenching ourselves in unfounded and intransigent positions, which are driven by ministers’ private aspirations, is quite another.