Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Greece and Cyprus are caught in a trap

Dimitris Konstantakopoulos’s articles have been highlighted before on Antipodes. One of those posts can be found here and Konstantakoppoulos’s website can be found here.

Konstantakopoulos has recently written another insightful article on the complex geostrategic issues facing Greece and Cyprus. There have been rumours the Turkish government is planning to re-open of the Halki seminary as a concession to Greece, separate from their obligations to Greece and Cyprus regarding their accession to European Union. It should also be noted that a significant amount of pressure for the Halki re-opening comes from the United States government and various American organizations. However, Greece and Cyprus find themselves in a trap. Konstantakopoulos expands:

These “concessions”, if, and when they occur - because Ankara usually makes promises it does not keep - are combined and do not contradict the intense pressures which are simultaneously implemented (e.g. Aegean) as part of their goal to continue unimpeded in their EU accession course and also to achieve one of Ankara’s primary goals of state sovereignty over the Aegean/Cyprus.

Ankara requests “reciprocity”, i.e. Greek concessions, every time they consider fulfilling their obligations. In the case of Halki, in return they request the expansion of rights of the Muslim minority in Thrace. Simultaneously, the Turkish consul in Komotini, has gone beyond its diplomatic terms of reference by going from village to village and acting rather like a “political leader” of the “Turkish minority”, rather than a foreign diplomat, despite repeated misgivings expressed by the regional government. In the end, rather than the Turkish diplomat complying, the governor ceased to attend many events attended by the diplomat! As for the leadership of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it appears to be ignoring the information provided by the secret services on Turkish activities in Thrace.

In contrast, no Greek government has ever dared to remind Ankara about what happened to the Greek minority in Turkey which was expressly protected by the Treaty of Lausanne. Konstantakopoulos then continues about the role being played by the United States on some of the abovementioned issues:

Meanwhile, Washington is now pressing for quick solutions to the problems impacting the external relations of Greece such as Cyprus, the Aegean and Macedonia. Also, American diplomats have indirectly but clearly posed the question of a “review” of the status quo of the Aegean (Treaty of Lausanne). For example, the extremely philo-Turkish Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Gordon deplored the low flyover flights over the Greek island of Agathonisi by the Turkish airforce, requesting the suspension of these activities, essentially to allow for a Greek-Turkish dialogue on “disputed issues” of sovereignty.

Undoubtedly, Ankara will make it appear to the US and the EU that it is caving in, presenting it as a concession, and then requesting allowances from the Greeks. This is a tactic that has regularly been followed by Mehmet Ali Talat in Cyprus. This tactics works because Greece and Cyprus have fixed objectives in maintaining a “good climate” in relations between Greece and Turkey whereas Turkey has never made the same sacrifices. Therefore, Turkey has greater strategic flexibility compared to Greece.

further clarifies the strategic mistakes made by Greece and Cyprus regarding to Turkey's EU access process and the limited set of choices that are currently available to them:
The problem is not tactical but strategic. Greece has declared a policy of “full integration and full compliance” for Turkey's entry into the EU; however, they practically consented to launch negotiations without raising the issue of removing Turkish demands and threats in the Aegean or the recognition of Cyprus. This “tactic” led Ankara into an extremely advantageous win-win position. Either they continue the tough stance, possibly extracting more Greek concessions, or they agree to Greek requests, demanding requisite reciprocations from Nicosia and Athens. For example, if they open the ports to Cypriot trade, it would appear strange to other EU members for Greece or Cyprus to veto opening new chapters because Turkey does not recognize Cyprus.

It makes no sense to put major issues such as the protection of Greek and Cypriot sovereignty from threats, occupation and assorted claims at the end of the accession process. This is because the process will stop, without Greece-Cyprus gaining anything and attracting the ire of Turkey and EU members or we are made to finally accept Turkey into the EU with all its demands.

Source: Dimitris Konstatakopoulos, Antipodes

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