Unavoidable decisions

Since the spotlights have been trained on domestic issues like the local election campaign, few people seem to realize that the country has quietly entered one of the must crucial periods in its post-dictatorship history. An extremely changeable conjuncture of international and regional crises means the next two months will be of decisive importance for the country’s role in the European Union and its foreign policy issues. Let us look at one of the more «pedestrian» but not the least significant. The agenda at today’s meeting of the EU’s economic and finance ministers (ECOFIN) includes a review of the notorious Stability Pact, which, for some time, has functioned as a type of automatic pilot for all member states’ public finances. Powerful member states, facing serious problems with unemployment, enlargement to the east and the generally accepted need to close the huge gap between Europe and the US regarding defense capability, are calling for a looser economic policy and questioning the Anglo-Saxon «orthodoxy.» On the other side of the Atlantic, UN-mediated intercommunal talks between Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash have entered their final phase with, at best, very little hope of reaching an agreement. All eyes are on the Turkish elections of Nov. 3, whose outcome (particularly in the event of a victory for the Islamists and subsequent military intervention) will determine to a great extent whether Cyprus’s accession to the EU will bring a serious crisis in Greek-Turkish relations. Meanwhile, saber-rattling in US-Iraq relations has cast a heavy shadow over Greece, as Ankara has well-founded hopes of a payoff from Washington for services it will be asked to render within the broader Middle East if the crisis threatens to spread. Foreign Minister George Papandreou speaks the language of logic and morality, which one would hope the international community will adopt, stating the need for a single standard for Iraq, Israel and Turkey, with the Greek emphasis being with those who give a priority to diplomacy, and sincere efforts to give Turkey a future in Europe – the most powerful weapon for Turkey’s reformist, moderate forces. Yet it is more likely that Greece will be asked to make some hard decisions over the next three months, unavoidable decisions that are not of its own making, such as whether its foreign policy will be aligned toward Europe or the USA, and whether its economy will become more liberal or revert to statism.