Accession as a regional stabilisation factor

Greek Centre of European Studies and Research
As already mentioned[1] Greece has viewed the Georgia incident under two specific biases. First, a relatively pro-Russian tilt in the country’s foreign-policy equilibrium. Second, the lingering apprehensions rising out of the recent attempts for NATO accession of Georgia, of the Ukraine – and of the FYROM (with potential EU accession negotiations in the background in the case of the latter two countries). This has caused the relatively high support for the ENP in Greece, viewed as an alternative process of stabilisation in the wider area without necessarily leading to accession in the foreseeable future. The natural gas incident between Moscow and Kiev has brought further reservations to the surface.
In addition, for Greece, the use of EU accession as a regional stabilisation factor (with the hope that normalisation of strained bilateral relations would follow) has been a cornerstone of its foreign policy and of its EU policy from the mid-nineties until quite recently. Reference was usually made, in that context, to Greece-FYROM relations and (far more importantly) to Greece-Turkey relations. But (a) the renewed tensions between Athens and Skopje and (b) the combination of a bilateral deterioration of the Athens-Ankara relationship with the shift in Euro-Turkish relations from a potential accession to an almost certain ‘special/privileged relationship’, have undermined the hopes that the perspective of such countries’ participation to the EU might serve as a conflict–resolution mechanism in the region. Turkey’s edgy relationship with the EU and the growing uncertainty of the accession perspective, as well as the Turkish role in an enhanced Union for the Mediterranean is increasingly under scrutiny in politico-academic public debates in Greece. It is argued that in Turkey a procedure of national redeployment is currently in progress. Following the Irish referendum, the European future of Turkey should be seen under a different perspective. If the European institutional construction is stalling and the ‘enlargement fatigue’ spreads, the accession of Turkey seems to be more distant. If the Lisbon Treaty is not finally implemented, the road for the integration of Turkey into an aggregate functioning system will be opened. The manifesto of Guy Verhofstadt that refers to a system of homocentric circles was proposed as an option. The second parameter is the instability in the domestic politics of Turkey. The attempted judicial coup d’état shows that the Turkish society is not mature enough and cannot approach the lowest common denominator of the political conditions that prevail in EU member states. The situation of instability and confusion in Turkey has serious repercussions on Turkish economy which is one of high political risk. In the previous years, there were signs of considerable recovery with a substantial opening of the market to the West and a significant increase of employment. Now, the external economic turmoil has led to a stable deceleration of the Turkish economy. The Greek-Turkish relations are competitive, especially in the sectors of tourism and energy. It is stressed that the commerce with Turkey is more important for Greece because of the size of the Turkish economy.[2]

[1] See chapter II of this issue of EU-27 watch.

[2] See in the September 2008 issue (No 17) of VIMA IDEON, a magazine published by the major Greek daily To Vima, a dossier dedicated on Turkey-EU-Greece (editor N. Frangakis; other articles by D. Dimitriadis, President, European Economic and Social Committee, G. Glynos, ex officer of the European Commission, D. Katsoudas, Secretary General for European Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, A. Kotsiaros, researcher of IEIP, A. Mitsos, ex Director General, European Commission, C. Papadopoulos, Advisor in European Affairs, EFG Eurobank, Chr. Triantopoulos, researcher of IEIP and Kostas Zepos, Ambassador (ret.)), reflecting a roundtable discussion on “Turkey: balancing between the European perspective and internal instability” organised by EKEME, in cooperation with IEIP of the University of Athens, 1 July 2008). In the November 2008 issue (No 19) of VIMA IDEON, an additional dossier with articles dealing with the Union for the Mediterranean and Turkey by N. Frangakis, A.A. Fatouros, P. Kazakos and D. Chrysochoou & D. Xenakis was published; I. Grigoriadis, “Trials of Europeanisation: Turkish Political Culture and the European Union”, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 2008.