Categories: OPINION Greek NEWS

Mitsotakis’ strategy for Greek-Turkish relations

April 17, 2021

We know that, in the post-war order, even in the Cold War period, three main objective factors shape the framework of a country’s choices, no matter how strong, in its foreign policy.

1. Its own position of power, by what it means, at the moment, when it has to make decisions.

2. The respective position of the country with which an agreement needs to be negotiated.

3. The alliances of each side and the possibility of their utilization.

Bilateral and multilateral international relations are shaped by international law, but also by the correlation of forces of the countries involved.

Of course, everyone speaks in the name of international law, but everyone knows that international relations are shaped mainly by the correlation of forces.

If the correlation of forces are equivalent or relatively equivalent, then international law has a decisive role in shaping initiatives and decisions, or the relations of countries lead to stagnation.

If we apply this framework in the more than 46 years of the Metapolitism, we will be able to interpret the developments of Greek-Turkish relations.

Greece begins the post-colonial period in a position of minimal power against Turkey, mainly because of the junta and its internationally isolation, and with the tragedy of Cyprus still fresh.

Then its course is constantly on the rise, and in the late 1990s it can look at Turkey intently.

In the 1990s,

  • Greece is a member of the EU,
  • seems capable of meeting the Maastricht criteria to join the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union,
  • Won hosting for the 2004 Olympic Games,
  • Completes the strengthening of its military deterrent force at great financial cost, and
  • Is a reliable partner in the EU and NATO, mainly as a lever for Allied policy in Southeast Europe.

December 1999, apart from its own power, is a favorable situation for Greece because the powerful EU countries each want for their own reasons, going back to the beginning of the 20th century, to support the great enlargement east.

Greece is taking advantage of this desire and succeeds in including Cyprus in the list of accession countries, in fact without asterisks and prerequisites, such as the resolution of the Cyprus problem, which would overturn its accession.

In this choice, however, until the last moment, the veto of Britain and the casus belli of Turkey were active.

The accession of Cyprus took place in 2003, formally in 2004, and is the greatest national success of the last decades since it ensured the security of Cyprus and to a large extent formed the framework for the solution of the Cyprus problem.

Turkey had suffered the biggest defeat, and what it could negotiate was declaring itself a candidate country in the EU.

Ankara wanted it very much for many reasons, our European and American partners wanted it, it also benefited our country, because a West-facing Turkey is less of a bad neighbour.

But there was also a clause in Helsinki’s decision that Turkey had to abide by in order to become a candidate country in 2004.

Turkey should adopt concrete reforms to align with the European acquis, mainly on the rule of law and to resolve peacefully with its neighbors, in accordance with international law, any disputes.

The decision went even further, proposing that, if the negotiations do not bear fruit, the countries should go to international courts.

By 2004, despite intensive processes, Turkey did not solve any problems with Cyprus and Greece.

Greece at the December 2004 Summit chose to accept the nomination of Turkey as a candidate for membership despite the fact that the bilateral problems between the two countries had not been resolved, nor had Turkey recognised the Republic of Cyprus.

From December 2004 until December 2020, the situation changed radically.

The EU had already frozen the opening of the accession process files as Turkey refused to allow Cypriot planes and ships to land at Turkish airports and sea ports.

Turkey had begun to slow down reforms and in some cases undo them.

And most importantly: many European countries have begun to doubt whether it would be right to consider it possible for Turkey to adapt to the European acquis.

But Turkey, especially after 2011, seems to feel very strong.

It now expresses its revisionist policy with aggressive rhetoric and similar actions.

The new Ottoman doctrine found a wall in all directions, especially in the Arab countries, and from the slogan of “zero problems with neighbors”, proceeded to military intervention in northern Syria and northern Iraq in the beginning.

It then violated the established sovereignty rights of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone, followed by violating the potential sovereign rights of Greece in the sea areas up to the limits of 6 miles of the secured coastal zone.

This is how we got to the December 2020 Summit, where the EU is urging Turkey not to repeat the violations of the sovereign rights of its two members, in order to give it the positive agenda it wants.

Turkey has an obvious goal of a positive agenda at the EU Summit this June, what is our country’s goal?

At the same time, Turkey states that it will soon start the exploration for hydrocarbons in the sea areas that it considers it owns.

On the contrary, neither the Greek government nor the Cypriot government have stated that they will resume the exploration in the sea zones they have established, according to their international right – why?

Are they committed to their partners or are they afraid that they will now face the military threat of Turkey, which often highlights, without its own agreement, Greece and Cyprus can do nothing in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean?

Nothing points to the success of the dialogue, and not only in the foreseeable future, so as the Prime Minister said last summer, our country proposes to go to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

This is a choice that our allies have been seeking for many years.

It is known that before the Hague, they had proposed a multilateral meeting of the Eastern Mediterranean countries, a proposal that had been made by Turkey, and they instructed the EU’s Foreign Minister, Josep Borrell, to prepare it.

Greece and Cyprus have accepted it at the Summit, but do not publicly promote it, because they know that:

A) Turkey will accept Cyprus only with the equal participation of the two communities, as is done in the five-party settlement of the Cyprus problem, and not as the Republic of Cyprus.
B) Egypt and Libya in a multilateral will be closer to Turkey than to Greece.

Turkey has also in practice secured its geostrategic influence, always in violation of international law, in a zone that stretches from the Caucasus to Libya and is at all tables of international negotiations on conflicts in this zone.

Many of these conflicts, like that of Libya, concerns us directly.

A cool assessment of 1999, with 2021, will easily lead to the conclusion that: we would definitely like to go back in time to December 2004.

And now the question is when and under what conditions we will be able to better negotiate our national interests, because it is certain that at some point we will have to make decisions.

Will the favorable conditions of 2004 ever exist or will they be even more unfavorable than today?

Then we will certainly have the clear answer, whether the strategy of the December 1999 Summit in Helsinki was the best for our national interests or the strategy of the December 2004 Summit in Brussels.

Mitsotakis agrees with Simitis, but he cannot say so, because the two former Prime Ministers of New Democracy, Costas Karamanlis and Antonis Samaras, do not allow him to do so.

Giannis Magriotis is a Opinion writer for To Vima


This post was last modified on April 17, 2021 7:46 pm