Erdogan in Athens

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Athens tomorrow along with a large entourage, a fact that has prompted reactions among a number of Greek commentators. Critics have expressed concerns that, given the economic crisis facing the country, Athens could end up making concessions to its eastern neighbor on vital foreign policy issues. Such arguments however fail to take into consideration the fact that Turkey has for years consistently and frequently put forward its positions toward Greece (concerning the Aegean Sea and the region of northern Thrace). In fact, Ankara has done so at times when Greece was supposed to have enjoyed a comparative economic advantage and was converging with the core of European Union nations. Ankara is not interested at present in ensuring Greece’s de jure consent on issues about which it believes it has the right to act on its own and in violation of international treaties. Nor is the Greek government going to negotiate the country’s sovereign rights. These days Turkey has an extra weapon in its arsenal and this is nothing less than its growing economic power. This is a factor that Erdogan wants to exploit. As a result, some 100 entrepreneurs will be accompanying the Turkish premier during his visit, as will a plethora of ministers whose portfolios have little to do with Turkey’s foreign policy. Erdogan obviously wants to enhance Turkey’s economic presence in Greece and he will be here to discuss new forms of cooperation – primarily, but not only, in the banking sector – with the government and responsible officials. Some people may have reservations for security reasons, but Ankara did not seem to have similar fears when the National Bank of Greece took control of Turkey’s Financebank in 2006. Turkey’s claims often fall outside the contours of international law. In contrast, the reinforcement of its economic presence in our country is in line with international agreements. Greece-Turkey bilateral ties seem to be growing more complex than at any other time in the recent past.

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