Vying for Berlin’s favour

Athens and Ankara are vying for Berlin’s favour, and the apple of discord will be in the hands of German Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of the European Council on Dec. 10.

The Greek government seems disappointed in Berlin’s policy. The sentiment was reflected in Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias’ interview with Politico, in which he stressed that Germany is not living up to its hegemonic role. On the contrary, during the recent meeting of NATO foreign ministers, his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu praised Germany as “the only honest broker” in solving the Greek-Turkish dispute.

Nicosia and Athens are naturally unhappy with Berlin’s stance and Dendias did very well to emphasize the issue in the Politico interview. The only issue is that by joining the European Union, Greece and Cyprus ceased to be fully independent states and have gradually given up chunks of sovereignty in the context of a federal Europe. It’s hard to know to what extent this concession was a conscious decision.

Merkel has been criticised for putting Germany’s economic interests (and those of other states) first, instead of promoting a policy based on “fairness” and “principles”, norms whose violation is harming Cyprus and Greece. The criticism is only partly valid. The key difference lies in the way in which Greece and Europe view the role of Turkey.

Germany by no means wants to isolate Ankara. Not only because of the migration issue (Turkey after all holds the key to stopping the influx), but because the EU, as a nascent new-style empire, cannot possibly survive in the form of a mediaeval-style fortified tower under constant siege. From the EU’s perspective, Turkey is like a controlled opening, which is what it needs these days.

During its lengthy European course, Greece has certainty ceded sovereign rights to Europe. It did so heedlessly. It now faces a similar conundrum vis-à-vis Turkey. It will be a tough one for the government in Athens.

(A version of this article was originally published by Kathimerini and reproduced by permission.)