Reservations in Athens

by Dimitris Konstantakopoulos

(“Ependytis”, August 25-26, 2001)

Although they have given their consent to Greek participation in the military operation, both the Prime Minister and Minister of Defense have admitted to reservations and skepticism as to the result – Mr. Tsochatzopoulos going so far as to predict an outbreak of deliberate acts of provocation by the Albanians. Political commentators interpret these statements as a conscious attempt by the two politicians to distance themselves in advance from what is an extremely ‘murky’ operation, one harboring evident dangers but whose ‘benefits’ are difficult, to say the least, to predict, an operation embarked on as part of the current Athenian policy of insisting on a Balkan ’presence’ and going along with whatever NATO decides. Greek involvement in the military operation has been backed by the New Democracy party, but opposed by the Communists and the Coalition of the Left. A meeting of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee has been scheduled to hear a briefing by Messrs. Papandreou and Tsochatzopoulos. The meeting will be held, belatedly, next Tuesday, and was scheduled at the initiative of Mr. Tsochatzopoulos.

A political issue which arises from the Greek involvement is the question of how it will be seen by the Macedonian Slavs; in other words, what is the ‘signal’ they will be receiving regarding Greek feelings towards them. The Greek government would like the presence of our troops to symbolize Athens’ support for the sorely tried FYROM, but for many Macedonian Slavs, who regard the NATO force as an ally of the enemy, ‘the blue and white flag of Greece will be anything but a welcome sight’, because of the dispute over the name, says the BBC reporter in Skopje. Managing at one and the same time to bring too little pressure to bear to solve the problem of the name, and yet to be blamed for the dispute – this is the kind of diplomatic success that only Greece could have achieved!


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