The Hodja phenomenon

By Stavros Lygeros

Ankara is laughing. It ran the gauntlet of its so-called evaluation for European membership without making the slightest compromise, when the EU should have frozen all negotiations until Turkey met its conditions. Meanwhile, although Athens and Nicosia could not have imposed any unilateral sanctions, they could have avoided signing an agreement which confirms Turkey’s special status in the negotiations. Or they could have announced that they will block EU funds until Turkey implements a customs union agreement with Cyprus.

The European Commission and the Swedish presidency had raised the issue of FYROM’s membership talks so as to open a second front for Greek diplomats. European officials gave Greece a relatively welcome response on FYROM’s prospects, gaining in return Athens’s reassurance that it will not raise obstacles to Ankara’s EU path.

At the same time, Britain pushed for the worst possible draft of conclusions. The aim was to make Greece and Cyprus feel they had made some gains. It was reminiscent of the wise man Nasreddin Hodja’s advice to the farmer who complained of his humble abode being too small: Hodja told him to take all his animals inside his house. When the farmer finally took them out, his tiny hut felt much more comfortable.

The recent statement by George Papandreou that the “fiscal deadlock is a threat to national sovereignty” is true to some extent. But it is also used as an excuse. Greece’s bargaining power has been compromised.

From the outset Papandreou spoke of a road map for Turkish membership, when there is already a map that Ankara has failed to follow. In fact, Papandreou did not want to upset Washington or spoil the climate ahead of Greek-Turkish negotiations. The US and Britain are pushing for a solution to the Cyprus dispute by March on the basis of a new version of the Annan Plan. Papandreou and Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias seem to be in agreement.


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