Athens, March 14, 2016/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Spiros Sideris
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was at the end of a friendship offensive from his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu. How else could the Turkish PM’s words be characterized when he repeated the words friendship and friendly country more than 20 times in reference to neighbouring Greece.
And if words are just air most times, the body language of the two Prime Ministers during the High Level Cooperation Summit between Greece and Turkey held in Izmir on March 8 clearly showed the friendship that now unites the two leaders.
Those unfamiliar with the depth of cooperation between the two countries over the past year and the approach that has been achieved by the two Foreign Ministers, Kotzias and Cavusoglu, they were certainly surprised. However, the systematic approach of the two Foreign Ministers, the genuine dialogue and direct talks between the two countries have helped greatly towards the normalization of the two countries’ relations.
Of course, this development has not pleased all political forces, both in Greece and Turkey, but it is a reality they must accept.
Alexis Tsipras intelligently publicized in a joint press conference the issues that test the relations of the two countries. In order to solve problems one must discuss them and Alexis Tsipras did it with Ahmet Davutoglu’s response being absolutely positive, not only on discussing but also on solving these issues.
The Turkish Prime Minister characteristically said: “we are ready to remove from our relations words such as “differences” and “war”. We will solve all of these problems with dialogue, we will completely remove from our agenda everything that causes differences, war and all these notions, as long as our friendship is eternal”.
It is evident that through joint actions, especially in business, uniting trade routes by activating the old caravan roads is part of the vision and the planning of both governments.
Turkey, with very strong activity in logistics and as a hub between Asia, Middle East and Europe, sees a partner in Greece for even greater use of its infrastructure. It is no coincidence that the agreements that were signed, include the ferry linking Thessaloniki and Izmir, the Istanbul rail link with Igoumenitsa and the construction of a second bridge on the border entrance of Kipi-Ipsala.
Continued tension between the countries and a problematic approach to business until a few years ago, seems to belong to the past. Certainly the road is not paved with flowers, but effort through entrepreneurship is needed. Moreover, the agreements signed in Izmir show this.
But the main concern for both Greece and Turkey right now is the refugee crisis. An issue that removes resources from the growth of both countries, creating societal tensions and business failure at the same time. It was a common realization expressed by both leaders that a problem created by others has hit the two countries that absorb the largest refugee flows from the regions being tested by civil war and terrorist attacks.
The two leaders are well aware that they can only handle the refugee crisis united. One depends on the other and as the first and sole recipients of refugee flows, they should cooperate with each other. Speaking of collaboration we mean it is necessary that issues of fear of Turkey or fear of Greece must not be raised by either side. At some point it must be understood that only through approach can a resolution be achieved and the refugee crisis provides this opportunity.
Recently a lot of talk has focused on the involvement of Turkish officials at Greek hot spots, with this cooperation causing a host of reactions. But realism requires the two countries to cooperate in every way and overcome the ills of the past and the obsessions that are deeply rooted on both sides.
The two Prime Ministers may have found an unexpected ally in this effort of theirs. Chancellor Angela Merkel. Surely we can’t know the innermost thoughts of the Chancellor on the refugee issue but the data available so far suggests there is much going on in the background.
The German economy is not at its best, and is in need of new blood, something offered by the university educated refugees that have arrived in Germany. As it became known, 72 pct of refugees that have sought asylum in Germany have a university education. Experienced, low-cost manpower is needed by the German economy.
But Angela Merkel is not just thinking about the refugees in her country but also the investment that will be made not only in Syria, when the war ends, but also in Turkey and Greece. The German industrialists want new markets and easy access and the cooperation between Greece and Turkey opens the way to profitable investment for the German economy too.
Of course all this remains to be proven in reality and not remain mere government plans. The refugee crisis may have caused a series of problems and revealed the true face of Europe but it also creates opportunities for investment, something Greece, Turkey and Germany would like to take advantage of./Ibna
(Photo Spiros Sideris/IBNA)