Foreign policy lesson

The European Commission’s unreserved recommendation that Cyprus join the European Union is an immense national achievement. Nevertheless, Greece and Cyprus have to remain alert until the date when European leaders are expected to formally invite the island to become a member at the EU’s Copenhagen summit in mid-December as well as until the finalization of the membership of the new members due in 2004. The election of a new government in Ankara in the crucial parliamentary elections on November 3 and the future stance of the Turkish political and military elite who have in the past threatened to annex the occupied part of northern Cyprus are, no doubt, a cause for uncertainty and concern. Hence, it would be a major faux pas to relax and think that the dangers have disappeared. It is for this reason that Greece’s Prime Minister Costas Simitis does not cease to reiterate the need to stay alert and warns about last-minute complications. Even the looming US strike against Iraq could influence Turkey’s stance on the issue of Cyprus’s EU membership, depending on the progress of the war and the role that Ankara will be called upon to play in it. However, regardless of the problems which may come up, no one can question the fact that, from now on, it is Turkey that will be trying to reverse a precedent and, most essentially, thereby questioning the declared will of the 15 EU members. Any Turkish political or military provocations will now be directed against a common EU decision. It is not hard to see how difficult such a course of action would be for Turkey and how the new power balance is a major deterrent against Turkish provocation. Rarely has Greece been in such a favorable position in the past. And this has not come about accidentally. Possibly for the first time, Greece has had a steady orientation and long-term planning on the issue of Cyprus’s EU accession. Greece managed to target a very difficult goal and it is now ready to reap the fruits of its unusually systematic efforts. Success on this issue should be a guide to foreign policymaking on other issues. It was a model for painstaking planning and action. This is the way to celebrate success, and not by seeking comfort in accusations and sterile negativism.