OPINION - Greece and its heavy burden on Europe
Greece's hostile attitude towards Türkiye in the recent period, especially after Kyriakos Mitsotakis became prime minister in 2019, has led to an increase in tensions between the two countries. Greece frequently violates Turkish airspace in the Aegean, harasses Turkish fighter jets, and makes irrational claims against Türkiye’s legitimate rights in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean. It continues accumulating troops on the islands close to the Turkish coast, which should be demilitarized according to international agreements. Its behavior is encouraged ostensibly by both countries’ Western allies without considering the actual situation, which is totally against international law. Recently, the Greek Coast Guard open harassment fire with automatic weapons on an unarmed Turkish cargo ship close to the Turkish coast for no reason. Greek coast guard boats often harass Turkish fishing boats in similar ways, not to mention the violation of the human rights of irregular migrants in the Aegean. The forced push-back of migrants in the Aegean Sea cannot escape the international community's attention. However, Greece's behavior, which does not recognize international law, is somehow constantly ignored.
We may figure out many motivations behind the hostile behavior of Greece against Türkiye. Firstly, there are historical, political, economic, and psychological motives on which Greece is building up its anti-Turkish policies. The roles played by the allies cannot be discussed within the restricted framework of this analysis, but there is tangible evidence that Greece is “spoilt” by the subsidies presented by its ever-philhellenic allies. Such an intolerable attitude, which is incompatible with the conditions of today's world and the region, may cause unnecessary damage to the nations. While domestic interests, as they may have provocative effects in the designation of Greek politics against Türkiye, are better to be reviewed immediately, Mitsotakis repeatedly continues his defamatory rhetoric against Türkiye, and at the same time, he tries to present a “peaceful” image of Greece to the world. Given his recent address at UN General Assembly, Mitsotakis' saying that Greece was a peaceful and "good neighbor” shows an obvious contradictory standpoint. Only if Greece’s interests, as identified by it without considering its most potent neighbor's legitimate objections, are accepted and if the Greek objectives are met unconditionally could this country be assessed as a "peaceful" one. Türkiye, as one of the leading regional powers, reasonably cannot be forced to submit to such rhetoric full of many contradictions. This style is innate to those who are unjust and persistent in walking on the long path.
Greece has support from the EU
What makes Greece so self-confident and belligerent once again as it was a century ago must be scrutinized under the aspects of its recent past. During the global financial crisis in 2008, Greece fell deeply in agony and could not pay back its debts. Drastic austerity measures intensified the political and economic turbulence in the country. Greece has structural inadequacies and is far from an industrial production economy, and since the EU accession, it has been utilizing external resources rather than investing in the industry. The financial crisis resulted from structural problems that ignored the loss of tax revenues due to systematic tax evasion.
Political concerns to escalate tension with Türkiye
The method of shifting voters' attention from domestic problems to foreign policy is undoubtedly a method that politicians in almost every country resort to from time to time. Greece had entered a period of confrontation with the EU and its locomotive, Germany, which it perceives as not providing enough support for the solution of the crisis and has not hesitated to draw the attention of the Greek public to the Aegean and Turkish issues. All these maneuvers, of course, have not contributed to the solution of the crisis; on the contrary, they have caused the political institution to get even more stuck.
The main issue of Greek foreign policy during the crisis was undoubtedly the relations with the EU and Germany. Greece required EU support due to the problem and especially the statements of Angela Merkel, the then chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, the leading lender country, which was perceived as hurtful from time to time, and the imposition of austerity policies led to the emergence of a severe anti-Germanism of the country. Indeed, given various statements under the pressure of her own domestic public opinion, Merkel used, or wanted to use German aid as a political trump card for Greece to get out of the crisis it fell into due to poor economic management. The German media went even further and suggested that “Greece should put the islands in the Aegean for sale” to escape the crisis .
Today, it is believed that Greece's financial crisis has been overcome. Mitsotakis, the leader of the New Democracy Party, which came to power replacing Syriza, has traditionally followed an anti-Turkey policy, backed by Western powers. Greece, which is supposed to have overcome the great financial crisis at the expense of the taxpayers in these western countries, is again showing an adventurous attitude in its foreign policy, probably for domestic political interest. Greece, which has faced such significant economic problems in the recent past, is investing considerable resources in armaments because of the hostile policy of the current government towards Türkiye. It buys warplanes and other heavy weapons, putting its people into huge debts. With 357 billion Euros, Greece is the country with the highest public debt in the EU. Despite that, it became the most armed country in NATO, spending 3.76% of its GDP on armament. Greece purchased 27 Rafale fighter jets and three frigates from France. Moreover, in December 2021, Greece requested $9.4 billion in arms purchases from the US. Not content with this, Greece allocated a budget of more than 300 million euros to increase the capacity of the military bases allocated to the US in the country and to build new bases. The government could be heading towards a financial collapse with such astronomic debt. That being the case, Greece intensified its defense expenditures with military collaborations with different countries however it does not possess a functioning domestic defense industry. Thus, it will be dependent on foreign financial aid and IMF’s bailout programs soon again.
As far as this attitude persists, Greece will be a burden on the economies of its "allies", whose support it enjoys today. Therefore, it is one of the most important tasks of our day that Greece is called to reason and become a peace-loving neighbor. That is primarily the Greek people's responsibility and those who use Greece for their political interests.