Greek Foreign Policy: An Exercise in Adaptation
The basis for the presentation that Dr. Couloumbis made, on March 20, 2007, was centered on a larger paper, titled "Greek - Turkish Relations and the Theory of Kantian Democratic Peace," being done as part of a final analysis from his term as a Southeast Europe Policy Scholar. Below are remarks, from the paper, prepared for his presentation. The larger paper is still a work in progress and, once completed, will be found in the Commentary section of our website.
For a long time the Greek-Turkish space had been characterized as a volcanic zone which would erupt into generalized conflict at anytime and anywhere between the Aegean and Cyprus. Greeks and Turks, despite their joint membership in NATO since 1952, were described as politically incompatible and trapped by history (centuries of Ottoman occupation, Greek national revolution, and irredentist wars throughout the 19th century and the first three decades of the 20th). Greeks and Turks were expected invariably to repeat their conflict prone behavior of the past wall into the future.
Following the escalation of the Cyprus dispute in the mid 1950's, Greek and Turkish politicians, journalists and scholars would find themselves meeting in international settings, before third party audiences, to plead their cases and mobilize external support. What normally emerged had all the contours of a zero-sum game. Third party audiences, in a mixture of amusement and boredom, would be exposed again and again to comparative culpability exercises and strategic beauty contests. The Greeks would focus on the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 and on Turkish revisionist claims in over half of the Aegean archipelago. The Turks would respond with complaints about Greek Cypriots (in the early 1960's) and about Athens's attempts to turn the Aegean into a Greek lake. Both Turks and Greeks would then, try to point up the strategic importance of their respective real-estate during and after the period of the cold war. The net result was the perpetuation of perceptions of a protracted and incurable conflict and the continuation of a cold war relationship between two important members of NATO. Tensions would periodically reach explosive limits with the two countries coming the brink of an all out war in 1974, 1976, 1983, 1987, 1996, 1998, and 1999.
Early in 1999, relations between the two countries reached an all time low following the capture of Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) which had been labeled a terrorist organization by most Western governments and by the European Union. Significantly, Ocalan was delivered to Turkish authorities by Western intelligence services following a few days of hiding at the Greek Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. The situation thankfully did not degenerate into a hot war. Instead, through self-restraint and prudent leadership, a new period of détente and step by step reconciliation was ushered in. Foreign ministers (then) George Papandreou and Ismail Cem, began a serious diplomatic exchange of correspondence in the spring of 1999. The whole idea, which both of them apparently shared, was to abandon the zero-sum relationship of the past and to begin search for common interests that could eventually (gradually and carefully) lead to a "win-win" situation.
Two destructive earthquakes (Istanbul in August of 1999, and Athens in September of the same year) contributed to the climate of thaw and reconciliation as rescue crews from both sides of the Aegean rushed to aid the stricken and the media in both Greece and Turkey projected a climate of empathy and compassion in the face of mutual disaster. By December of 1999 (at the Helsinki EU summit meeting) a new era in Greek-Turkish relations was apparently beginning. At the bottom of the Papandreou-Cem (Simitis-Ecevit) convergence strategy was the search for agreements and arrangements of mutual benefit, without winners and losers, as had often been the case in the past. In Helsinki, at the summit of December, 1999 everyone got a share of the pie.
Turkey gained because it secured EU candidacy status (given the lifting of Greek objections). Turkey also gained because it gave positive response to its existencial East-West dilemma: "We belong to Europe". Other definite gains for Turkey included the following: a. the road map to EU accession would pass through the building of a stable and advanced economy and a consolidated democracy, the latter presupposing civilian control of the military, pluralism and religious/minority freedoms; b. commitment to a philosophy of peaceful settlement of disputes with its immediate Western neighbor would permit the Turkish government to gradually reduce its high military expenditures for the benefit of social and economic opportunity costs; c. because the road to EU accession, and beyond, entailed increasing packages of EU cohesion funds and related programmatic benefits.
In its turn, Greece gained primarily, because it escaped the thankless syndrome of "1 versus 14" among the EU's then 15 member family, where some of the fourteen were conveniently hiding their Turkish skepticism behind Greek vetoes. An equally important Greek gain was the decoupling of Cyprus' road to EU accession from the prerequisite of a settlement with the Turkish Cypriots, who for years were under the leadership of Rauf Dektash, a man notorious for his maximalist negotiating style. Greece also gained because it began a process of engaging its eastern neighbor into a path of "Europeanization," that could result in a drastic improvement of neighboring relations, while getting its EU partners to agree that the Aegean dispute should be settled peacefully through negotiations and if necessary, through resort to the International Court of Justice at The Hague.
The EU gained by removing (or at least beginning to remove) from its agenda a serious dispute between a member and an applicant state. It also gained by extending free trade and investment activity into a lucrative market of close to 70 million people and, especially, by adding the valuable Turkish strategic and economic space to the European security and cooperation architecture.
Finally, NATO and the US also gained from the Helsinki Summit agreement for similar to those of the EU reasons and, also, for distancing the contingency of a catastrophic war between two strategically important NATO allies. Additionally, the prospect of a cooperative Greek-Turkish duet would be expected to serve decisively in all efforts to consolidate a new (post-Yugoslav wars) security architecture in the Balkans, the Black Sea ad the Eastern Mediterranean.
Needless to say the process of Greek-Turkish denouncement was considerably facilitated by the collapse of the former Soviet Union and the rise of Russia (as its successor state) whose first priorities were transition to a market economy and stabilization of new democratic structures that required an abandonment of an activist, and competitive, vis-à-vis the United States, strategic presence in the Mediterranean region.
II. Hypothesis and Propositions
In a previous study we juxtaposed the positions of what we termed "recidivist" and "transitionist" schools of thought. The proposition of the former group/analysts was that war is a constant condition in the Balkans (including Greece and Turkey) and that countries and governments of the region have a high probability of being repeat offenders. The latter school (the transitionists) questioned the recidivists' assumptions and posited that war is not unique to the Balkans but rather, it is usually a product of economic, political and social underdevelopment. In short, they argued that war, in the second half of the twentieth century even when it involves advanced democracies of Europe and the United States, has taken place in zones of poverty, and backwardness, with a high dose of populist and irresponsible leadership. Siding with the cautiously optimistic approach of the transitionists, we decided to employ a variation of Bruce Russetts's Kantian peace theory and apply it to the countries of the post-communist Balkans. Our findings provided ample evidence of convergence (in the economic, political and social sectors) between post-communist Balkans (individual countries and the region as a collectivity) and the rest of the Euro-Atlantic region following the collapse of the Soviet bloc and the end of the Cold War. In short, our cautiously optimistic projection was that after the end of the wars of Yugoslav succession (1991-91?) we could project a period of growth, cooperation and peace in the triad and tested Balkan area.
In this article I will attempt to project on the future of Greek-Turkish relations by employing some of the central axioms of Bruce Russett's democratic peace theory . In a number of books and articles Russett and his associates – using a solid statistical methodology – have proposed that democratic countries (as shall be defined in the next section) have a much lower probability of going to war with each other than do dyads pitting authoritarian countries against democratic ones or dyads involving inter-authoritarian conflagrations.
Russett and Oneal in a book entitled Triangulating Peace: Democracy, Interdependence, and International Organizations have advanced a Kantian peace proposition along the following lines: Countries that fulfill successfully and durably three interrelated criteria, namely consolidated democracy, advanced/liberal economy, and joint membership in regional organizations (for our purposes the EU and NATO), simply do not fight wars with each other. Following on their steps, we aim to examine the record of Greco-Turkish relations since the late part of 1999 in order to assess progress in meeting criteria (necessary and sufficient) for a long period of sustained peace in the region.
Figure1. Russett's and Oneal's Kantian Triangle of Peace
Starting with the variable of consolidated democracy, and despite the wealth of the relevant literature focusing on transitions/consolidations of democracy in post-authoritarian polities, we should realize that we are dealing with soft and changeable criteria. The predominant method of identifying consolidated democratic polities includes the following prerequisites: (1) two or more political parties, (2) periodic and constitutionally required elections (with a maximum period of 5 years between elections), (3) free press and freedom of expression, (4) no political prisoners, (5) no interventions by extra- parliamentary factors (especially the armed forces) following elections whose outcome calls for change of party/ies in power, and (6) the functioning of a pluralist, and independent from government, civil society.
For the second Kantian variable, liberal/advanced economy, we will employ World Bank data and other credible sources, focusing on variables such as GDP per capita, GDP growth, imports and exports, foreign direct investment, unemployment, and percentage of poverty. Implicit here is our assumption that economic development and balanced growth are prerequisites for the establishment and perpetuation of stable democracy.
Turning finally to the third variable, joint membership in international organizations, we should note clearly the feedback mechanism interlocking the performance of all three Kantian variables. In the case of Greece and Turkey, the most relevant organizations are the EU and NATO. "Enlargement," the prospect and the process of attaining EU membership, calls for the fulfillment of economic and political criteria fitting Russett's specifications. Needless to say, the satisfaction of this third criterion can best be determined by eventual membership. In our study both Greece and Turkey–despite the tense and troubled relationship- have been members of NATO since 1952. Greece joined the European Union in 1981 and Turkey-currently-is in the early, negotiating phase of its accession process.
Throughout this study we must remain aware of the limitations that accompany statistical research. In short, correlation in the behavior of variables is not necessarily causation. Given that our dependent variable is the maintenance of peace (the absence of war), the Kantian triangle offers us our independent variables. We should also note as we have already stated in part I above that the variables of quality of domestic leadership and foreign intervention by great powers have also deeply affected economic, political and enlargement outcomes for all the Balkan countries that are included in our study.
III. Comparative performance of Greece and Turkey in political, economic and institutional variables. **(To be completed).**
As illustrated in Part III of this paper, the Greek-Turkish behavioral profile fits well- in the Hegelian sense of "becoming"- within the criteria of Russett's and Oneal's Kantian democratic theory of peace. Since 1999, despite occasional incidents of high tension involving Turkish military flights in the Aegean air space, Greeks and Turks have proceeded to create economic, social and political interdependences in classic functionalist theory style. (footnote Mitrany, Haas, etc)
In the economic dimension of activity, the volume of bilateral trade has nearly quintupled (CHECK) in less than seven years ($ --- in 1999, $--- in 2006). Turkish investments in Greece and Greek investments in Turkey have also grown proportionately, with a massive inflow of over 3.4 billion Euros accounted by the currently unfolding purchase of Turkey's third largest bank Finansbank, by the National Bank of Greece. Cooperation is also increasing rapidly in bilateral energy networks following agreement on constructing a natural gas pipeline traversing Turkey and northern Greece and connecting to Italy and points west through a seabed pipeline across the Adriatic sea.
In the political sphere of Greco-Turkish relations there has also been progress, even if less obvious than in that of economic sectors of activity. Since 1999, as presented in Table.. above, there have been signed and implemented more than 20+ (CHECK) bilateral agreements that fall under the rubric of mutual interests: Clearing land mines in the border areas of Thrace, cooperating on matters of environmental protection in the Aegean, developing safeguards against trafficking (narcotics and persons) and illegal immigration, facilitating joint projects in the tourist industry, extending summertime moratoria on air and naval exercises, and establishing hotlines that connect highest levels of political and military authorities—are all excellent examples of confidence building measures that are paving the way toward a lasting reconciliation. We should not fail to mention here the joint foreign ministries' exploratory dialogue involving over 30+ rounds of meetings (CHECK) designed to arrive at a procedural formula of negotiations and adjudication by the International Court of Justice. Finally (see Table ....), one should point up the increasing trend in the exchanges of high level visits of prime ministers, foreign ministers and top ranking military.
In the social sector of interaction there has been serious and noticeable progress. Governmentally encouraged and independent civil society initiatives have sought to build bridges of empathy about the "other." Universities in both countries have been encouraging student and faculty exchanges and setting up programs of area and language studies focusing on Turkey and Greece respectively. Businesspeople, journalists, artists, entertainers, academics and others are steadily building networks of understanding with the target of reduction of mutual prejudice in textbooks, films, news programs and commentaries on television and print journalism. It is worth noting, for example, that one of the most popular TV soap operas in Greece is a love story involving an affair between
a Greek boy and a Turkish girl, with understandable but humorous reluctance on the part of both sets of prospective in-laws. The program, produced in Turkey, is in the Turkish language with Greek subtitles. Musicians such as Mikis Theodorakis and Zuflu Livaneli are highly popular in Turkey and Greece respectively and when a Turkish basketball player joined for some years the ranks of a top Athenian team the fans lionized him as long as he continued making three pointers.
Détente and reconciliation in Greek-Turkish relations is not necessarily a one way street. A number of issues remain unresolved and the whole process of step by step normalization could go awry by accident or miscalculation. On the top of the list of unresolved questions remains the occupation of northern Cyprus by forty thousand Turkish troops and the drastically different interpretations regarding the Greek Cypriots' overwhelming rejection of the UN ( Kofi Annan) settlement plan in April 2004. Moving further west, the issues of the delimitation of the Aegean continental shelf, the width of Greece's territorial air, treatment of minorities, and related questions have been kept on ice, heating up dangerously on various occasions (such as the crises of 1976, 1987, 1996 and 1999).
The prospect of a lasting settlement of the Cyprus and the Aegean questions is rather unlikely in the short run. The year 2007 will be highly politicized in both Turkey and Greece. In the spring of 2007 the Turkish parliament will have to elect the successor to the current president, Ahmet Necdet Sezer. The ruling Justice and Development (AKP) party has a comfortable majority in parliament with which to elect to the highest office the current Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan. But Turkey's Kemalist, secular establishment headed by the powerful military has serious reservations about Erdogan's suitability, given his Islamic political roots of the recent past. Also in the fall of 2007, assuming the presidency question is resolved without incident, there will take place Turkey's national election, pitting Erdogan's ruling party against a highly critical and mobilizing secularist opposition. Greece, also, is likely to have a parliamentary election as early as the fall of 2007 or, at the latest, in the spring of 2008. One, accordingly, cannot expect diplomatic breakthroughs in the immediate future. The safest projection regarding Greek-Turkish relations, therefore, is what we could call "issue management" or a form of marking time for the next twelve to sixteen months. Hopefully, throughout this holding pattern, the trends of economic and social exchange, cooperation and interdependence will continue on their current upward path. As the old saying goes, "Siamese twins never stab each other for they would both bleed to death."
Greece currently meets all three criteria of the Russett-Oneal Kantian theory of democratic peace. It is a consolidated democracy, an advanced and liberalizing economy and a long time member of key international institutions (the EU since 1981 and NATO since 1952). Turkey is well on the way to meeting the same criteria. It is a consolidating democracy, an advanced and liberalizing economy and a member of NATO (since 1952), but only a candidate for European Union accession. If in Turkey's case all three criteria are fully satisfied in the next few years, we can propose that the two Aegean neighbors will enter into a long era of peace founded on a historic reconciliation.