By Nikos Kotzias
1) The method of backing off by entrusting national issues to third parties
In order to understand what New Democracy is doing today, we have to study history, which teaches us to be cautious. Seferis mentions that in the 50’s his friend Evangelos Averoff, serving as Foreign Minister of the ERE government, had prepared a plan for the division of Cyprus.
Averoff wouldn’t dare to publicly propose such a plan. Thus, he slyly asked the English to promote it themselves. He assured them that Greece, after “whinging” a little, would eventually officially accept the division plans he had worked out!
In 1996 the Simitis government made a proposition to C. Vance and the UN, that the Security Council should adopt a decision on the Macedonia naming dispute, with the name “Macedonia (Skopje)” (!) for international use and just “Macedonia” (!!) for domestic use. The Greek side made clear that they could not “bear” to bring such a proposal before the PASOK parliamentary group and much less before the Parliament. Thus, he 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 (now the EU) commission to adopt the decision of the UN Security Council and that Greece, after “whinging” a little to keep up appearances, would eventually accept the decisions of the UN and the EEC “under compulsion”. Simitis did the same in Madrid with the Greek-Turkish disputes.
The first historical lesson comes from the above examples: Governments that make such choices are essentially reluctant to put up a fight in the field of diplomacy, but simply arrange the mediation of powerful or international organizations, so that they can then pretend to “accept” what is already “decided.” It is a special type of arrangement of submissive policies.
The current way in which the Mitsotakis Government acts in the Greek-Turkish disputes is highly reminiscent of the aforementioned methods. The government pretends to be playing hardball, when it has largely entrusted the fate of the Greek-Turkish disputes to the German “arbitration”, well known for its pro-Turkey stance since the late 19th century.
2) Broader concessions and machinations in the Greek seas
There is a second historical lesson that is of interest here: For decades, Turkey has sought to call Greece’s rights under international law into question. They turn everything they can into “gray areas” and then claim it as their own. At the same time, they act as if they are the “wronged” ones in the international arena. Each of their illegal claims is accompanied by a fragmentary and distorted reference to international law. On this basis, they began questioning the Greek sovereignty of dozens of islands and islets, which then proceed to claim as their own. Meanwhile, Turkey constantly begins bargaining more and more claims that refer to Greek rights, thus preventing their exercise in an extortionist manner. Turkey is the only old colonial empire seeking to reclaim the lands and seas it held in its former colonies. Historically, this is an unprecedented brazen claim.
Against the Turkish machinations, many Greek governments rightly appeal to international law, the provisions of which undoubtedly justify the Greek positions. But, in practice, they refuse to take advantage of what they rightly claim. I am referring to practices on issues such as the territorial waters and the EEZ, the bays, and the delineation of baselines.
In the context of this Turkish practice, there was a direct questioning of the Greek sovereignty of Imia, as well as the problematic Madrid declaration. Simitis accepted, as a fifth condition in this agreement, the suspension of Greece’s rights in the Aegean, including the right to extend our territorial waters to 12 miles.
As a result, there has been no extension of Greek territorial waters even in SE Crete. It is no coincidence that Turkey, perceiving the submissive dispositions of the Mitsotakis Government, concluded an illegal EEZ agreement with Libya, an EEZ which is adjacent to potential Greek territorial waters. With this act, Turkey even violated the Madrid Agreement of 1977 which forbade unilateral actions in the Aegean.
Greece’s waiver of rights on the territorial waters, such as in Crete, was accompanied by a problematic agreement with Italy and an agreement with Egypt. The way these agreements are concluded, leads to the waiver of rights against third allied states, due to the difficulties met with Turkey!
Amazing! Turkey is pressuring, the Government is retreating and is seeking to “balance” this retreat with new concessions, even where it is not actually needed.
Greece, as it is evident, has in recent weeks accepted an agreement, which puts on the table of negotiations with Turkey a “wider Madrid” and a new “maritime Imia”. In other words, Greece has accepted, through the USA and Germany, the conversion of its territorial waters into gray areas, just like the Turks did with Imia in 1996. And just like back then in Madrid, now the New Democracy government has agreed to add to the list of pending issues the general suspension of the exercise of our rights in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean. Also, as stated by Kalın, Erdoğan’s spokesperson – who I hope is not speaking the truth – the Greek-Turkish dialogue will include all the issues raised by Turkey in the past and which Greece has consistently rejected, since they intersect immediately with its sovereign rights.