As the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean find themselves in the middle of a breakdown and with tensions constantly arising, though they constitute areas of the utmost priority for Greek interests and its foreign policy, yet it appears as if they did not make the cut into the Greek government’s agenda. The passiveness that Greece’s foreign policy is experiencing at a time of tensions and reshuffle in the region cannot be explained in any other way.
However, government officials, with no exceptions, during the first 100 days of New Democracy in power believe that Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ government moved swiftly to safeguard national interests and restore Greece’s position in the region and its credibility in Europe.
According to the ordinary citizens who simply observe the developments, it is true that what the government has been successful in its communications policy over the first 100 days. Almost the entire domestic printed and electronic press presents the overseas meetings as huge successes, yet those same meetings did not even fill a single column in the foreign media. Indeed, it is a success going from protagonist to extra.
But let’s look at things in the chronological order of “successes”. The first diplomatic move by the government was the recognition of Juan Guaido as the legitimate President of Venezuela, five days after taking office. By the way, no one, not even the US talks to him anymore, while at the same time the countries’ diplomatic relations with Maduro are being restored. Are we talking about Poor calculation from the Greek Government’s part, or simple incompetence?
Of course, the signs were there early on; the easiest official trip abroad for the Greek governments, the one in Cyprus, was anything but successful. Firstly, by decision of the Mitsotakis Government, two allied countries are condemned to energy isolation, with Greece withdrawing from a project of strategic importance and mutual benefit, such as the Euroasia Interconnector. Second, there comes the Greek government’s reluctance to the point of passiveness on the Cyprus issue and the Turkish provocations and threats against the security and sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus. This means that on a trip to a safe environment, like the one in Cyprus, Kyriakos Mitsotakis managed to create friction with two very important partners and allies, Cyprus and Israel. The last negative development was the revocation of the decision to appoint the new Ambassador to Nicosia, resulting to the Greek Embassy in Cyprus remaining without a chief in position during this difficult point in time.
The three trips to Paris, Berlin and The Hague that were unprepared, without an agenda and without the Foreign Minister joining, seemed more like trips to provide credentials to the EU leadership. With Macron the statement against Turkey made the news, alongside the prime minister’s wife stylistic choices. With Merkel, discussions revolved around green growth and a green investment project that stayed on paper, since Germany wanted it all. As for his visit to the Netherlands, apart from some photos in a university and of course Rutte’s call for Dutch investments in Greece, nothing else was there.
The trip to the USA by the Greek Prime Minister that took place in New York for the General Assembly in September was widely publicized; all for a tea meeting and some sympathy with the US president in the company of their wives, which never happened in the end.
But even in the few days that the Greek Prime Minister stayed there, he managed to upset Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, an important Greek partner in the Balkans, as Kyriakos Mitsotakis held an official meeting with Kosovo’s President Thaçi, who is president to a country Greece has not yet recognized, while the meeting with Vucic was booked following some reporters’s advice that this might lead to a diplomatic episode.
In a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Greek Prime Minister “forgot” to bring up the issues Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades had pointed out to him. As he commented after the meeting, we gave him 6 issues and he talked about half a subject, escalating the Cypriot side’s dissatisfaction with the Greek Government.
Yes, Greek government officials were right that Greece had changed. Within 100 days the country’s foreign policy has indeed changed. Unfortunately, with these diplomatic “successes” Greece seems to have no agenda, to lose its credibility abroad, to follow rather than take initiatives, thus losing valuable diplomatic and political capital.
Unfortunately for the government, the first 100 days of the Tsipras government with Nikos Kotzias as Foreign Minister had highlighted Greece as a self-luminous EU country. No one in Brussels has forgotten Nikos Kotzias’ reaction to the decision regarding sanctions against Russia in the absence of Greece. Nor can Cypriots forget about the changes it has made to its guarantees and security since with its visit to the UN in April 2015, shaping a new landscape in resolving the Cyprus issue. Not even Americans can forget who worked hard to rebuild the Greek-American relations, which are now at their peak. Bulgaria, too, cannot forget about resolving its differences with Greece, creating a particularly important alliance in the Balkan region. Not even the Jewish lobby can forget Nikos Kotzias and the Tsipras government, which helped the Greek government in the most difficult times and laid the foundations for the Greek-Israeli alliance. And all that before reaching the 100-day milestone.
It is true that it is too early to draw any conclusions on the foreign policy of Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ government. But the early signs are worrying for Greece, in a time of significant changes in its vital geographical area. The apathy that characterizes Greece’s foreign policy can be dangerous, if not dooming. /ibna