by Costas Iordanidis
(Kathimerini, English edition, March 5, 2001)
[...] In international relations success does not depend on image, but on the accuracy of assessing international trends and setting viable foreign policy objectives, aiming to promote issues of vital national interest. Herein lies Simitiss weakness, for he has failed to exploit certain fresh opportunities.
NATO unleashed a groundless war against Yugoslavia, allegedly to protect human and minority rights of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, and Greece took part in this military campaign. However, rather than exploiting Washingtons supposed interest in minority rights to improve the position of ethnic Greeks in Albania, the government confined itself to international initiatives to resolve the crisis, as if it had great leverage. In the process, Albanias ethnic Greeks have been left unprotected.
During the Yugoslav crisis, Greece hosted and served the allied troops while it provided vital aid to FYROM. Simitiss government, however, failed to exploit this advantage to resolve the republics name question. Now Simitis is striving for a compromise solution. Simitis and his ministers have obviously forgotten that every international crisis presents opportunities, and insist on asserting a theoretical “Balkan policy” rather than promoting specific solutions that directly advance Greek interests.
On the other hand, Simitis and Foreign Minister George Papandreou should be praised for their shift in European-Turkish policy, by which they referred the Turkish issue to the EU. This policy should be continued.
One crucial matter is Turkeys position on the EUs rapid reaction force. Ankara is demanding - without being an EU member - to take part in the committee which will determine the deployment of European military forces independent of NATO. Turkeys stance has raised fears among EU members, but US Secretary of State Colin Powell called Ankaras concerns “reasonable.” If Greece really wants to bring the EU face-to-face with Turkish reality, it will have to support the claim for Turkeys full participation in the European defense and security system. In any case, Turkey is a NATO ally, and the alliance would never allow Europe to act unilaterally in a highly volatile region such as Turkeys.
The more Ankara becomes entangled in the EU, the better Greeces interests will be served.