A lot has been written in the last few days about the Greek Prime Minister’s response to the letter he received from Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan. Depending on the source of the article, or more specifically the political orientation of the writer, the comments on PM Papandreou’s response are neutral to extremely critical. We would hereby like to focus on why some responses are so critical and the dangers that are inherent to a policy of appeasement towards Turkey. The point here is not to go into every detail of every issue but to highlight the dangerous and slippery slope Greece is being dragged to.
To take things from the beginning, several weeks ago the Greek PM received a letter from his Turkish counterpart regarding the relations between the two countries. In true Turkish political fashion, the usual list of Turkish claims made their appearance. The Greek side carefully studied the letter and has now finally come with a response. Media sources which are politically and ideologically close to the government have described the Greek response as one which tells Turkey to first and foremost respect Greek territorial sovereignty (we’re sort of past that but anyhow) and International Law (the ultimate expression of Greek wishful thinking). Sources closer to the opposition are quick to point out that this is the first time a Greek Prime Minister agrees to the Turkish demand of negotiating all issues of the Aegean from scratch and as a whole. The Greek response can be read in several ways; however, even when trying to keep the utmost neutrality from a Greek political standpoint, it is clear that Greece is opening the door to discuss issues that were once off limits. The reason these issues are off limits are because they all had to do with Greek sovereignty. In international relations sovereignty is the essence of that which is not negotiable.
The Greek PM’s response to Turkish PM Erdogan accepts that all issues between the two sides must be negotiated at a high level. If a settlement cannot be found then the issues should be referred to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. And this is exactly the slippery slope we’re talking about.
When discussing Aegean issues with other Europeans a question often heard is why Greece is against negotiating on all issues. The answer is simple. Negotiations are an issue of give and take. When it comes to Turkish claims in the Aegean the only one who stands to lose something is Greece. The only one who stands to gain something is Turkey. That is not a negotiation, it is extortion, and in the case of the Aegean it is one accompanied by the threat of war as officially sanctioned by the Turkish Parliament. To draw a silly parallel in this case, imagine a burglar breaking into your home and then claiming your home is actually his. In the spirit of “give and take” negotiations shouldn’t the burglar get half your home? If the burglar claims half your home, should he get a quarter? Of course not, this is exactly why we have laws and police and courts and such. Ownership is a given. In the arena of international politics there is international law and there are treaties but let’s face it, for the most part things are settled in terms of power.
Part II coming soon