In recent years relations between Athens and Ankara have been shaped by a regular pattern: violation of the Greek air-space by Turkish battleplanes, efforts to create a ‘crisis’ situation over the Aegean, the persistent refusal to re-open the Halki Theology School and fruitless exhortations by Greece for Turkey to respect the principles of being a “good neighbour.”
Relations between Athens and Ankara have particularly deteriorated since December 2004 when the European Union (EU) made its long-awaited decision to begin negotiations with Turkey regarding its full membership in the organization.
The Greek government supported the beginning of negotiations for Ankara’s entry into the European Union without receiving concrete exchanges and commitments from the Turkish side, thus abandoning the “Helsinki process.”
Turkey feels no pressure and therefore has no reason to abrogate its aggressive policy in the Aegean, while its push for European Union membership is free of timetables and obligations.
What Greece needs is a new Helsinki process, set within the E.U. political and legal context, which ensures that Ankara meets it’s obligations to Athens and Nicosia.
That would be a clear and honest message to Turkey’s leadership, making clear that its European ambitions depend on the significant improvement of Greek-Turkish relations.
The improvement in Greek-Turkish relations requires unambiguous and irreversible solutions to the existing disputes between the two countries, such as the cases of continental shelf and territorial waters’ determination in Aegean Sea.
For that, the most secure pathway seems to be only one: the International Court of Justice in Hague.
In an interesting article published in Kathimerini newspaper, shortly after the tragic loss of flight lieutenant, Konstantinos Iliakis in 2006, former President Kostis Stephanopoulos had supported the Hague option.
Mr.Stephanopoulos stated that Greece should not fear the appeal to the International Court, simply because it has the International Law on its side.
Indeed, it is in the interests of Athens to drag Ankara International Court of Justice in Hague, thus proving the legitimacy of the Greek arguments and creating a de jure context in the Aegean which Turkey would not be able to dispute anymore.
A decision by the International Court of Justice would restrict Turkey to defined limits, leaving no space for bravado or provocation.
The bilateral talks between Greek and Turkish officials, or between Mrs. Bakoyianni and Mr. Davutoglu, don’t seem to produce any positive results.
Considering that Turkey’s Foreign Policy is strongly affected by the internal antagonism between the armed forces and the elected politicians, that is no surprise.
The internal political tensions in Turkey also adversely affect relations between the two countries, as it requires Greece to commit to substantial defence spending to maintain a semblance of military parity.
Common sense, as well as Greece’s national and international interests, says that Greece has to disengage from that situation as soon as possible.
However disengagement is not easily achieved. That is why Greece needs a brand new strategy which is executed within the diplomatic and legal context of the European Union.
The strategy has to take into serious account all the possible factors, which could affect Turkey’s behaviour, such as the political environment in Ankara, the Kurdish Issue and the various geo-political changes in the region.
That new strategy has to again put the Greek-Turkish relations in the E.U. framework, reconnecting them with the European orientation of Ankara, thus creating the preconditions for a positive settlement in Aegean based on the rule of International Law.
Nicolas Mootas has a Masters and a PhD in international relations and is a regular contributor to the Greek newspaper ‘Macedonia’ and to the website ‘Phantis.’