Greece's foreign policy challenges in 2021 and what future holds


Greece's Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias reflected on the country's foreign policy challenges and achievements in 2021 and what the future might look like moving forward in a recent Op-Ed titled “Ready to tackle all kind of challenges” in the special edition of “Eleftheros Typos tis Kyriakis” newspaper.

From significant defence purchases and agreements with allies such as France and the United States, to the volatile relationship with neighbouring Turkey, Dendias  outlines both achievements and challenges whilst sounding optimistic about the new year.

“Ready to tackle all kind of challenges”
by Nikos Dendias,
Foreign Affairs Minister, Greece

Over the past year significant developments in our foreign policy took place.

Two extremely important defence cooperation agreements with traditional allies of Greece, France and the USA were concluded.

Contacts with our partners in Europe, as well as in the wider region, in the Western Balkans and in the Middle East were intensified.

And, of course, new channels of communication with countries that play an important role in international affairs were established.

In the course of 2021, I had frequent contacts with the vast majority of the 15 members of the Security Council, including the permanent members: France, the United Kingdom, the United States, China and Russia.

At the same time, we strengthened our relations with all of Greece's neighbours, including Turkey. During these contacts I reiterated our country’s positions, which are based on International Law and especially on the Law of the Sea.

Looking ahead to 2022, our major expectations and the great challenges we are called on to address can already be discerned.

My expectation, as well as that of the Mitsotakis government as a whole, is to build on the very close relations we have already developed with traditional allies, building on the foundations of recent Agreements, as well as on the Memorandum signed with another very important ally of ours, Great Britain.

We need to further enhance the strong position we have acquired in our wider region, both in the Balkans and in the Middle East. We are no longer merely looking at the developments, but we have a role and a say in them.

We constitute a key player that shapes our surroundings and a force to be reckoned with that promotes peace and stability. Greece's voice is now heard and taken into account by powerful states and International Organizations.

But we do not rest on our laurels. We should continue to invest in our diplomatic relations and alliances so as to maintain our position. And we should also continue our openings to the world and take advantage of the opportunities that arise.

I intend to continue contacts with Sub-Saharan Africa. In the near future I will visit Nigeria and Angola, two of the largest economies in the African continent. We should also strengthen ties with countries in Asia and Oceania, such as India and Australia, Powers that embrace the same principles as we do, such as full respect for the Law of the Sea.

And of course, we should not fail to mention the Latin American countries which we have a lot in common with.

Unfortunately, we do not operate in a vacuum. Along with the initiatives we undertake, we are called upon to address challenges, both existing and new ones.

Given the current state of affairs, I am not optimistic about any improvement in Turkey's attitude towards our country, although I would really hope to be proved wrong. No matter how much Turkey’s foreign policy will be affected by the known issues that have arisen in its interior, it goes without saying that we should be constantly vigilant, face vigorously the ongoing Turkish provocations against Greece and Cyprus, as well as the instrumentalisation of migration and promote the validity of our positions among our partners and allies.

Unfortunately, nationalism in the Western Balkans continues to rise and now threatens the very existence of the states in the region. We should respond to regression and revisionism, by putting forward a realistic European perspective, with the well-known conditionality.

Finally, we will be called upon to manage shifts taking place on the European stage. We wish to build ties with the new German government. We had already taken an important step establishing contacts while the Greens were still in opposition. But it is a fact that there are no forgone conclusions on anything, as now the situation is changing.

At the same time, France, which will hold the EU Presidency in the first half of 2022, will hold presidential elections. Regardless of the result, attention will inevitably and primarily be focused on the interior. All this means that the leading forces in Europe will not find their stride until several months have passed.

If one can make a prediction for next year, it is that unfortunately the pandemic, for at least several months on, will affect lives across the globe, but there is reasonably justified hope that there will be even more effective ways to address it.

In any case, the new year is expected to be as intense as this past year. However, it is up to us, as far as our country is concerned, to be prepared for all eventualities in 2022, as well as to be ready to tackle all kinds of challenges.