Saturday, April 10, 2010

Continued Rapprochement with Greece

On Thursday, Turkey and Greece agreed to five "confidence building measures" (CBMs) designed to assuage fears concerning the two countries' military intentions (for the AP story, click here). The hope is that the CBMs will allow both countries to reduce their arms spending vis-á-vis one another, a move that has wide support in recession-struck Greece where military spending has long been criticized by a vibrant and quite vocal civil society. In meetings held in Ankara, Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsos and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu agreed that 10 key ministers, including those in charge of foreign and European Union affairs as well as energy and economy would meet at least twice a year, and laid out plans for joint military training and other cooperative endeavors within the framework of the CBMs.

Turkey's Minister for European Affairs and EU Chief Negotiator Egemen Bagis made headines in Greece last month when he announced that Turkey would reciprocate should a reduction or freeze of Greek military procurement come about. The remarks followed criticisms Bagis made of German and French arms sales to Greece despite the austerity measures Greece will have to endure in coming years. Greece spends a greater percentage of its GDP on military spending than any other EU country, largely driven by its fear of Turkey.

The new CBMs are in addition to the 24 already adopted, and will only further solidify the rapprochement that has taken place between Greece and Turkey in recent years despite the lack of progress on Cyprus. In 1999, following devastating earthquakes in both Greece and Turkey and a wave of public support, the Greek government moved to support Turkish membership in the EU as a means of reducing a future military threat from Turkey, an idea long-heralded by former Prime Minister Kostas Simitis.

On Saturday, Turkish Armed Forces Chief of Staff Ilker Basbug said Turkey had no interest in engaging in a conflict over the Aegean, where Greece and Turkey have some territorial disputes and conflict over the administation of flight information regions, both of which routinely lead to mock dog fights between the the air forces of both countries. (For a brief look at these disputes, click here.)

Prime Minister Erdogan is expected to visit Greece in May.

No comments: