The biggest problems in Greece
We cannot talk about the biggest problems in Greece, without first introducing this country. Greece accepted euro as its new currency in 2002. This was the first step how to avoid high inflation, which endangered the country with the former dragma currency. This step of accepting euro helped Greece to increase economic growth. It led to a more relaxed fiscal policy. But, finally, this fiscal policy combined with cost associated with the Olympics in Athens 2004, caused big deficits and debts in next two years. The Greek economy is supposed to have grown by 3,7 % in 2005 and similar growth rates till the year 2007. Services are the fastest – growing sector of the Greek economy. Greece is a major beneficiary of the budget of the EU. (CIA, 2006). Greece’s foreign policy is along with those of the other EU states. Greece gives a special stress to its relations to Turkey, Cyprus, Macedonia and Albania. The main emphasis, regarding relationship, gives Greece to Turkey.
It is said that your neighbour should be your friend. If it is not your friend, you have troubles. We can carry this saying over into the real life. The best example is Greece and Turkey. Their relations among each other were almost hostile. In the past, both sides, Greece and Turkey, saw each other as a potential threat for their security. Greece and Turkey have unsolved discussions about their territorial, air boundary and maritime dispute in the Aegean Sea and about the Turkish accession to the European Union. Also the big problem in their partnership is the Cyprus question. (Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, 2006).
After the end of the cold war, for both Greece and Turkey, it meant a confusement. This disintegration of Yugoslavia caused a big insecurity in international environment. Both countries had to deal with a very difficult period of adjustment and they felt very isolated from their partners in West. In Greece was the Balkan crisis, which caused a bigger insecurity by adding a section, a part to the threat - Turkey. Greece was also accused by other European countries of „not behaving like civilized Scandinavians in the Balkans“. (Journal, 2001).
But also Turkey went through a feeling of isolation. Many people thought, that it had lost the strategic significance for NATO. (Kirisci, K., 2003)
The first big crisis between these two countries was the Imia-Kardak crisis. For many people who are `outsiders`, this crisis meant just like a crisis over two little infertile islands, almost inhabited. This crisis was not about materialistic possession, we cannot talk about these two islands in materialistic terms. Many historicians and analysists said, that this crisis was not about „what“ it includes, but it was about „who“ it includes.(Journal, 2001). Also politicians are convinced that this Imnia-Kardak crisis caused negative feelings and hostile perceptions in both these countries - Greece and Turkey.
In this period of time, both countries insulted themselves with words. For example, Greece named Turkey as „uncivilized barbarians“, and Turkey responded to Greece with the title „spoiled child of the West“. (Journal, 2001).
But not just this Imia-Kardak crisis caused such hostile relations between Greece and Turkey. Another important crisis is the S-300 crisis. Athens stationed their aircrafts missiles to Cyprus. Turkey saw and understood it as offence and this caused, again, very stressful situation. To calm down this situation, Greece removed their missiles to Crete.
Another relevant ‘cooling’ of the relations was on February 1999 after the capture of Abdullah Ocalan, the head of the Kurdish workers party (PKK). The officials of Greece gave Ocalan several material assistance and a safe haven in Greece. Turkey immediately accused Greece of supporting the terrorism. But also the Greek government had to face serious criticism from the inside of the country. When talking about these all crises, we should ask ourselves – And what is the role of the OSN? What about the role of the EU? How could the EU help? Yes, Turkey is not a member of EU yet. But the best instance for this situation is exactly Greece. In the last years Greek democracy developed and we can see a huge progress.
However, the Turkish democracy is still in process, the membership in the EU would help Turkey to transform their foreign policy. The entrance of Greece in the EU has helped them in many ways, finally, also with the democracy. (Kirisci, K., 2003) EU membership countries have to adjust to various reforms. But Greece has some reservations to Turkey enter the EU. The thing is that Turkey does not want to make any concessions about Cyprus. The answer to the Cyprus question would be probably if Turkey becomes an EU member. However the Republic of Cyprus under the government of Greek Cypriots is already in EU. The problem is that Turkey does not want to acknowledge the Republic of Cyprus. (CIA, 2006).
Greek defense minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos in 2000 said: “There is no prospect for Turkey’s accession to the European Union, if it does not contribute and make concessions on Cyprus“. Till now, the most complex plan how to solve the long term Cyprus question was a 137-page long suggestion of a plan of the general secretary of the OSN Kofi Annan. The plan supposed a creation of the United Cyprus. His aim was to join both communities, Greek and Turkish, to an independent confederation of two equal states according to the Swiss model. Annan’s suggestion staved off the referendum. The Greek community refused it to the rate of 3 to 1. The main arguments were that the suggestion is non – democratic, non – functional and non – realizable. Since that time, new suggestions are coming very slowly.
These Greek – Turkish relations are moving from one point to another. The significant role in warming up the relations was the Kosovo crisis. This crisis was a challenge for leaders. Leaders should be pushed toward regional cooperation and shift away from usually patterns of foreign policy, mainly in Greece. The operation of NATO regarding Kosovo had an enormous influence on Greece, but also on Turkey. As George Papandreou expressed his feelings: “The harrowing war in Kosovo brought home to the Greek people the importance and necessity of good, neighbourly relations. We need to have a policy of regional cooperation, based on mutual understanding and common interests. Greece has made an effort to take the lead in promoting stability, cooperation, and democracy in the Balkans. Given this basic, but determined, foreign policy outlook, it would have been incongruous to exclude Turkey”. (Kirisci, K., 2003). This crisis was insignificant, but was the first stage in warming up the relations of Greece and Turkey. After the electoral victory in April 2000, when Kostas Simitris was elected for Prime Minister and Foreign Minister was George Papandreou, this was a good sign for both countries, Greece and Turkey, to improve bilateral relations. Turkish people appreciated no to use in their campaign ‘hate speeches’ against Turkey, as was used to in past
The another warming up of relations was when Turkey was hit by huge earthquakes. Exactly these earthquakes played the main role in developing the Greek – Turkish relations. This devastating earthquakes killed thousand of people and exactly Greece was among the first states that condolescenced and offered humanitarian aid. The empathy showed in Greek and Turkish media was a bright sign of the exploration of the new bonds between people, who were almost ‘enemies’. A Greek newspaper wrote next day, after the devastating earthquakes: “We are all Turks!” (Kirisci, K., 2003). Turkish newspapers answered in Greek: “Efcharisto poli, File! / “Thank you, Neighbour!”. (Kirisci, K., 2003).
Just a few days after the earthquakes, Greek journalists began to criticize the Greek government with big titles in newspapers: “When we saw the corpses of Turkish mothers and babies, our eyes were filled with tears. Maybe these same mothers would be crying over their children after a possible Greek – Turkish conflict … As we see the victims of the earthquake in the neighbouring country, we feel as if this lump will strangle us”. Turkish newspapers responded also so empathetic: “With the helping hand you provided, not only saved our daughters and sons , but also took away a century – old prejudice from our lands … We are just like two brothers who have found each other after so many years … We were bloody enemies just a few days ago; and we have became blood brothers after the earthquake”. (Kirisci, K., 2003).
On the other hand, it is too naive to think, that after these earthquakes the relationship between Greece and Turkey will permanent improve. These both countries have a long way in front of them, to reach a permanent détente. It is necessary to develop bilateral relations from a political, governmental but also from a human side.
Another big problem in Greece is the Macedonia dispute. The main disagreement between these two countries are about Macedonia’s constitutional name. This has been the most controversial and is always the main point in diplomatic relations. Greece was against the use of ‘Macedonia’ or the ‘Republic of Macedonia’ claming, that the word comes froms the Greek language and nobody has the right to use it without permission from Greeks. Greeks want to Macedonia re-name to Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
Greece’s another problem – neighbour is Albania. Greece stopped leading diplomatic relations with Albania in 1991 (CIA, 2006). After the fall of the communism in Albania, relations between Greece and Albania became worst, because of the mistreatment of the Greek minority in the southern Albania. But not just this caused the ‘cooling’ in diplomatic relations between Greece and Albania. Albanians openly expressed their desire to create a new independent state, which will be united with Montenegro, Serbia, FYROM and northwestern Greece. (CIA, 2006). Also according to CIA, immigrants from Albania come to Greece illegally. However, there was a period of time when Greece and Albania began to cooperate regarding the narcotic trafficking or illegal immigration. Today, diplomatic relations are unfriendly again. Also many Albanians attract attention in Greece with many ‘bad’ headlines almost every day.
As many countries in Mediterranean, also Greeks have a lot of problems with smuggling cannabis and heroin from the Middle East and also from the Southwest Asia. These smugglers want to either transfer these drugs to the West and precursor chemicals to the East. There is also evidence, that some South American drugs, almost cocaine is consumed in Greece (CIA, 2006). CIA claims, that Greece has also problems with the money laundering, what is related to the drug trafficking, and has also huge problems with organized crime.
Each country in the world has its own problems. It does not matter whether it is Greece, Slovakia, United States or any other country. Citizens are also just humans, who make mistakes, which cause troubles. In my argumentative essay I tried to mention the Greece’s biggest problems which are not just within the state, but are international and interfere to other’s countries policy.