Turkey’s president has cleverly eroded Greece’s foreign policy goalsby Angelos Chryssogelos / April 7, 2017 / Leave a comment
Since Recep Erdogan rose to power in Turkey 15 years ago, Greek-Turkish relations have presented a paradox. Erdogan initially styled himself a moderate democratic reformer, but over the years he has steadily increased his authoritarianism and anti-western posturing, especially since moving from prime minister to president in 2014. Yet relations between the countries remained on the stable and uneventful path charted since Greece accepted Turkey as an accession candidate to the European Union in 1999. Now, with Erdogan turning against Europe ahead of a referendum in April that may endow him with absolute power, there is rising uncertainty in Athens about whether this calm will last.
Relations between Greece and Turkey are complex. On the diplomatic field, the two countries are enmeshed in a web of complicated and interrelated disagreements. They disagree over sea and air borders and operational (military) control in the Aegean. Sovereignty over rocks and islets is disputed. In Cyprus, they support opposing sides of the divided island. But at the same time economic ties and human contacts between the nations have deepened substantially in the last two decades.
For years Greece was content that its bilateral relationship with Turkey had become embedded within the broader framework of EU-Turkey relations and the accession process Turkey had signed up to. In this way Greece had managed to turn its disputes with its neighbour into a matter of European concern, to be resolved through the benevolent impact of EU conditionality and enlargement process on the Turkish state. But the assumptions upon which this strategy was based are now crumbling.