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Dora’s dreams; Greece’s foreign policy 10 avril 2006

Posted by Acturca in South East Europe / Europe du Sud-Est, Turkey / Turquie.

The Economist, U.S. Edition                                                                                         Türkçe

April 8, 2006

A well-connected foreign minister treads warily with her cousins

AS A tall, striking scion of a famous political dynasty, the newish Greek foreign minister, Dora Bakoyiannis, seems well-placed to give the country’s diplomacy a panache it lacked under her 77-year-old predecessor. Her profile as a centre-right politician with a power base of her own rose during her previous job, as mayor of Athens. Besides hosting the 2004 Olympics, her achievements included a professional audit of the city accounts, and securing a promise of European Union money for a giant leisure centre, with a stadium for the Panathinaikos football team. On the foreign front, the friendship between the Mitsotakis family, into which she was born, and America’s Bush family has done her no harm.

But none of these assets make it easier for Mrs Bakoyiannis to handle the issue which, as she said this week, still tops Greece’s external agenda: Cyprus. As mayor, she was among the Greek politicians who lamented their Cypriot cousins’ rejection, in a 2004 referendum, of a UN plan to reunify the island. Her appointment as foreign minister was greeted warily in Nicosia. But on starting her new job, she sent a message to Tassos Papadopoulos, the Greek-Cypriot president, reassuring the island’s rejectionists: she now saw the UN plan as « history ».

On her first visit to Cyprus this week, Mrs Bakoyiannis put more emphasis on sending pan-Hellenic signals to Turkey than on urging the Greek-Cypriots to be flexible. Both the Greeks and their Cypriot kin are stressing two things that Turkey must do to keep its EU hopes on track: recognise the Greek-Cypriot government, and allow Cypriot ships into Turkish ports. Mr Papadopoulos faces little pressure from Greece to take risks for a settlement. The UN is trying harder: Kofi Annan, the secretary-general, has urged the two sides to hold « technical » talks that might lead to more substantial negotiations.

From a Greek viewpoint, it may be enough if Mr Papadopoulos can be induced to sound just flexible enough to avoid being called intransigent by other EU members. Nor does the Greek-Cypriot leader need to worry about his own voters. In the parliamentary election on May 21st, parties opposed to the UN plan are expected to do well. Most depressingly, for advocates of reunifying the island, a recent opinion poll suggested that 48% of Greek-Cypriots preferred to go on living separately from the Turkish-Cypriots, whereas only 45% favoured co-existence. Among the young, the proportion in favour of separation was even higher.

With the Cyprus issue rumbling in the background, the ardour of the personal friendship between the Greek and Turkish prime ministers has also cooled in recent months. Only in the business world ()see page 84 are ties between the two countries still booming.

Mrs Bakoyiannis has family memories of her own that may hold her back from urging a softer line on the Greek-Cypriots. Some 25 years ago, when her father, Constantine Mitsotakis, was Greek foreign minister, he was pelted with eggs by hard-line Greek-Cypriots on arrival at the island’s airport. These days, with two years of experience in the EU, the Greek-Cypriots use more subtle techniques to deal with Athens. For better or worse, Mrs Bakoyiannis has less clout in Nicosia than her predecessors did.


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