Giorgos Papachristos, a prominent Greek commentator working for Greece’s best-selling daily Ta Nea, warned that Athens’ stance amid ongoing tensions with Ankara in the Eastern Mediterranean is problematic at best. But Giorgos has more than that. He argues that Greece may lose a potential war with Türkiye, adding that Europe is “sick of Greece.”
Well, I am not as pessimistic as Giorgos when it comes to bilateral relations between his and my country; there will be no “war,” God forbid. So far, the U.S. and French provocations in the Eastern Mediterranean include pushing bundles of euros and dollars under the nose of cash-poor Athens and turning the darling olive groves into military and naval bases on those gardens of Eden that we call the Aegean Islands. But they are there to scare Russian President Vladimir Putin. So far, they didn’t work; and nor they look like they are dissuading Russia. You cannot invade Türkiye with a handful of used U.S. tanks and hardly operational French boats!
Yet, Giorgos Papachristos has a point: Running to the European Union every time the country has a problem is not a solution, he says: “They are sick of us. We have only convinced ourselves that we are right, and Türkiye is wrong but we need to be realistic.”
He is living in Greece; so, he knows better than I do about the day-by-day transactions between the EU and Greece. A beggar nagging every day would pester the life out of the most generous person. Such an egregious abuse of full membership in the EU would serve the ulterior motives of the Western Europeans when it comes to their relations with Türkiye, but such behavior does not bode well for Greece.
Daily pressure on Mitsotakis like that of Papa Christo and other well-intentioned commentators actually should work right now because there is such a thing as “second-term complacency” in Greek politics and Sakis Moumtzis reminds us that it is “a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Every government, Mr. Moumtzis says, that has made it to a second term has found itself sinking into a mire of inertia and ineffectiveness. An author and political commentator at the Kathimerini Group in Greece, Mr. Moumtzis writes that the Greek people have learned from several examples that over-familiarity with power can lead to abuses in how it is exercised and that this has a paralytic effect on the entire government’s operation.
Let’s hope it is not going to happen in the second term of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Mr. Moumtzis, himself, is not known for his optimistic estimates. Recently he was prophesizing that Greek-Turkish rapprochement was a nice idea but unfeasible (because Türkiye, he thinks, is not willing to solve “differences” with dialogue. More on this in a second). If we assume that Moumtzis is right when he expects that Mitsotakis’ government would not sink into the mire in its second term, we should hope that Mitsotakis has the right motivation to apply pressure on the national sentiments of the Greek people to see Türkiye not as an enemy. A politician’s self-satisfying efforts are usually an inapt substitute for physical realities enforced by the economy, trade and neighborhood requirements. Mr. Mitsotakis should, as Papa Christo rightly purports, know that not war but love has more chance in the cool waters of the Aegean. However, when you look into the reactions to his article, you lose faith in the possibility of better relations on those shores. In the parlance of social media, Papa Christo has been lynched since his article was shared with them.
Playing into the sentiments of the masses, especially if those masses have some unresolved issues between them, is so very easy. But let’s not forget that Greeks and Turks have been dancing the same dance and toasting the same for centuries. No, I am not turning into a fainthearted, soft-bellied peacenik here. I am very well aware of the dangers of the U.S. tanks (regardless they are used or brand-new) and the French warplanes and frigates (even if they are not flying and sailing) that are being abused to feed the nationalist discourse in Athens. Papa Christo is right when he says that those nations who are now gladly selling those military and naval junks to Greece would at one point be “sick of Greece.” Again, those Greek commentators are right when they say that French interests in the region may not fully align with those of Athens. First and foremost, the immediate creation of those military and naval bases on the Greek mainland and islands is targeting Putin, not President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. And as long as Erdoğan is running things in Ankara, none of those bases are going to be operational against Russia, because there will be no need to use them.
Well, so Giorgos! I see your point. But, no worries. Our brother at Kathimerini, Sakis is mistaken. You and I, and other peace-loving journalists, on either side of the Aegean, should encourage Kyriakos and other Greek politicians that "Tourkía," as you call it, has all the reasons for a friendly dialogue with "Yunan," as Turks call it. Unlike Sakis says, Türkiye doesn’t have any “reason to undermine the relevant process from the outset.” The relevant process is not going to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Sakis thinks that Türkiye “adopts a revisionist approach” regarding the agreements and treaties that ended World War II. No! Quite contrary! All Türkiye wants is Athen’s sticking to the prohibition of heavy armament on those islands.
I don’t know how much "mastiha" Sakis had when he wrote, “Turkish elites believe that their homeland is constrained by the international treaties set a century ago, and they strive to transcend this predicament by projecting their power.”
He asks, “What kind of dialogue is the prime minister (Erdoğan) referring to?”
A short answer is that the kind Papa Christo has been suggesting: a “filikós” kind of dialogue that you have among friends on the cool shores of Aegean, especially amid these “global boiling days.”