No pretext for compromise

Relations between the European Union and Turkey have for years been a point of dissention between Greece and its EU partners. Ever since Athens revised this counter-productive policy, Turkey has become an EU problem instead. As a result, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer on Wednesday recommended setting a date for the beginning of EU accession talks with Ankara, whereas European Commission President Romano Prodi insisted yesterday that this was unlikely due to Turkey’s lack of democratic reforms and other shortcomings. The formerly held view that Turkey’s relations with the EU hinge on Athens was naive, for it was grounded in the belief that Greece’s administration could use the EU mechanism to accomplish what it failed to achieve on the bilateral level due to Turkey’s military influence. Equally naive is the belief that the prospect of EU membership is attractive enough to lure Turkey into revising its position on Cyprus or the Aegean Sea. The presence of Turkish coast guard ships near the Imia Islands on October 17 and 18 underscores that Ankara has not abandoned its aggressive Aegean strategy. The revision of Greece’s policy on EU-Turkish relations was a wise decision and moderate reactions to Turkish provocations, such as the recent one in Imia, are imperative. But this is about as far as Greece’s flexibility can go. After a long period of negotiations, Cyprus finally stands on the threshold of joining the Union. However, the Mediterranean island’s EU accession must not become any pretext for Greek concessions, especially in light of Ankara’s refusal to compromise the fundamental principles of its domestic and foreign policy in order to enhance its ties with Europe.