Quo Vadis Europe?
It depends on where you are looking from. If you are an optimist you can hail the situation as a victory of solidarity between the European nations for common peace and development targets despite the expense of a greater burden on the taxpayers of the producing members. After all the EU is now mature enough to pass its six-month term presidency to the Greek Cypriot government which doesn’t have political unity on the soil it claims and is practically broke in economic terms.
If you are a pessimist you can go as far as to say that the very fact that Greek Cypriots became the term president of the 27-nation union is symbolic regarding the future of it; Dimitris Hristofyas was eager to ask for money (half of his GDP) from German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the basis that its resources were not sufficient even to pay for the expenses for presidency formalities. Well, for the Germans, who have already paid for the Greeks, Portuguese, Italians and Spaniards, to pay more for Greek Cypriots was like peanuts. Britain seems to be happy about staying out of the eurozone so far.
It may sound a bit weird that Turkey is still trying to join the EU, which has been so reluctant to accept it as a member for the last half a century. Yes, the Cyprus problem is an obstacle. Turkey does not recognize the Greek Cypriot government. President Abdullah Gül and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had declared earlier that for this six-month period Ankara would have no political contact with the EU presidency.
But Turkey and Europe have been a part of each other for centuries with or without the EU. In a “Turkey phenomenon” business forum in Milan on June 12, organized by the Italian think tank CIPMO, the general director of UniCredit, Roberto Nicastro, made it very clear that the Turkish branch of the bank had been their savior and they had no plans to downsize it, despite the cases of some other branches. There is a similar situation between many European countries and Turkey; economic activity with Turkey is on rise, despite the overall crisis. A new visa regime, helped much by the new French President François Hollande promises new windows in Turkish-EU relations.
Greece has a special place in this relationship. Despite being historical rivals, the countries have gotten on well regarding the EU since 1999. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, as the economic captain of Turkey, has been quite vocal in support of EU support for Greece; after all you wouldn’t want your neighbor to go down and drag you along. Ankara is quite happy with the new Greek government established after two early elections.
Turkey’s EU Minister Egemen Bağış does not hide that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was extremely happy to see Dimitrios Avramopoulos as the new foreign minister of Greece; they know each other from the ‘90s when Erdoğan was mayor of Istanbul and Avramopoulos was of Athens. “Avramopoulos came to Turkey to visit Erdoğan when he was put in jail,” Bağış has said. “Erdoğan will never forget that. Avramopoulos is a good patriot; we cannot agree on everything but you can sit and talk to him comfortably.”
And it seems the feelings are reciprocated. New Greek Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni says they want full cooperation with Turkey, underlining that the interview she gave to Barçın Yinanç of the Hürriyet Daily News was her first one as a minister, before Greek media even.
The freezing of relations with the EU Commission under the Greek Cypriot presidency won’t affect Turkish relations with the union much, it seems, but it may affect the future of the union regardless of Turkey’s integration.