By Nikos Kotzias*
Method of retreat by outsourcing national issues to third parties
In order to understand New Democracy’s moves these days, we must study history, which teaches us to be careful. Seferis writes about his friend E. Averoff, EPE Foreign Minister, that in the 50’s he had prepared a plan for the division of Cyprus. Averoff did not dare to publicly table such a plan. Instead, he “whispered” in the ear of the English his plea that they promote it. He assured them that Greece, after “murmuring a little but”, in the end she would officially accept the dichotomous plans he himself had worked out!
In 1996, the Simitis government proposed to Vance and the UN that the Security Council adopt a decision on the Nomenclature, with the title of “Macedonia (Skopje)” (!) for international use, and just “Macedonia” (!!) domestically. The Greek side clarified that it could not “bear” to bring such a proposal to the PASOK parliamentary group, and much less to Parliament. For this reason, it suggested that Vance inform the permanent members of the Security Council that the Greek government agreed with such a solution. That it had been arranged for the EEC Commission (today’s EU) to adopt the decision of the UN Security Council and, after Athens “beefed” as a smokescreen, it would end up declaring that it “had to” accept the decisions of the UN and the EEC. Simitis did the same with the Greek-Turkish issues in Madrid.
The first historical lesson derives from the above examples. Governments that proceed with such choices are essentially reluctant to fight in the realm of diplomacy, but simply mediate with powerful or international bodies in order to then pretend to “accept” what has already been “decided.” It is a special type of organization of submissive policies.
The current manner in which the Mitsotakis Government approaches the Greek-Turkish relations points to many similarities with the aforementioned methods. The government pretends to be tough, while it has largely assigned the fate of the Greek-Turkish relations to the German “arbitration”, which is known for its pro-Turkishism since the late 19th century.
- Wider retreats and manipulations in the Greek waters
There is a second historical lesson that is of interest here: For decades, Turkey has sought to question Greece’s rights under international law. She “grays” what she can afford to, and then claims it as her own. At the same time, she takes on the role of the “wronged” in the international stratum. Each of her illegal claims is accompanied by a fragmentary and distorted reference to international law. It is on this basis that the game of questioning the Greekness of dozens of islands and islets kicked off, claiming them as her own afterwards. At the same time, she constantly adds to the “oriental bazaar” more and more claims that refer to Greek rights, while in a blackmailing mode it prevents their exercise. Turkey is the only old colonial empire seeking to reclaim the lands and waters it held in her former colonies. Historically, an unprecedented, brazen claim.
Against the Turkish manipulations, many Greek governments rightly invoke international law, the provisions of which undoubtedly justify the Greek positions. Yet in practice, they refuse to take advantage of what they claim. I am referring to practices on issues such as the territorial zone and the EEZ, the closure of the bays and the delineation of the median lines.
In the context of this Turkish habit, there was a direct questioning of the Greekness of the region of Imia, as well as the problematic Madrid agreement. Simitis accepted as a fifth condition in this agreement the suspension of Greece’s rights in the Aegean. Among other things, including the extension of the country’s territorial waters up to 12 miles. As a result, Greek territorial waters are not extended even to SE Crete, until today. It is no coincidence that Turkey, seeing right through the retreating tendencies of the Mitsotakis Government, fabricated an illegal EEZ agreement with Libya. An EEZ which is adjacent to potential Greek territorial waters. With this decision, Turkey even violated the Madrid Agreement (1977) which forbade unilateral actions in the Aegean.
Greece’s withdrawal from her rights in the territorial zone, as was the case of Crete, was accompanied by an unfortunate agreement with Italy and, possibly, an impending agreement with Egypt. The way these agreements are concluded leads to the waiver of rights against third states-allies, in the name of difficulties with Turkey! Amazing! Turkey is pressing and the Government is retreating and seeking to “balance” this retreat with new concessions, even in cases when she is not actually directly pressured.
Greece, it seems, has in recent weeks accepted an agreement that puts a “wider Madrid” and a new region of “maritime Imia” on the table with Turkey. Greece accepted, that is, through the USA and Germany, to turn its territorial waters gray, just as the Turks grayed the Greek Imia in 1996. And, like in Madrid, in the same fashion the New Democracy administration has agreed to add to the pending issues the general suspension of the exercise of our rights in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean. Furthermore, as announced by Kalin, Erdogan’s representative, who I hope is not telling the truth, all the issues raised by Turkey in the past and which Greece has consistently rejected, since they intersect immediately with the Greek sovereign rights, will be included in the Greek-Turkish structured dialogue./ibna
* Nikos Kotzias is former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece, Emeritus Professor of International Relations and Foreign Policy at the University of Piraeus and Member the Pratto Movement.