The prime minister had been cock-a-hoop about the visits of foreign leaders to Greece. In November 2016, he boasted: “In just a year, we became key players in developments. Whereas before nobody came near us, now foreign leaders with a global impact are visiting our country in quick succession.”
This April he boasted: “Now we can see that we have a country that is at the center of developments: All the major leaders are visiting.”
At the Thessaloniki International Fair in September, the Greek premier claimed: “The recent visits by [Emmanuel] Macron, President [Barack] Obama and Russian President [Vladimir] Putin... are proof that our country is becoming more important.”
A month later Tsipras said: “It is no coincidence that in less than two years our country has been visited by President Obama, French President Macron, Russian President Putin, Pope Francis, Italian prime ministers [Matteo] Renzi and [Paolo] Gentiloni, and many other foreign leaders... The visits by top foreign leaders to Greece show that the country has moved up a league. The time when Greece was the black sheep and was associated with bankruptcy and mismanagement is behind us and is not coming back. The same goes for the time when Greek prime ministers would wait politely in line to get a photograph.”
All this may answer the question on everybody’s mind, which is why the government invited Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Greece just now. Once that happened, one thing led to the next. President Prokopis Pavlopoulos felt the need to respond to the comments by Erdogan regarding revisiting the Treaty of Lausanne from start to finish. The Turkish president set aside his notes and said he would not read from the script. He went on to respond bluntly to Pavlopoulos, who responded with a law lesson, before he passed on the responsibility for discussing the reinterpretation of the treaty that has been Greece’s shield for the last 90 years to the prime minister who, the Greek president pointed out, is the one with the executive powers.
Unfortunately, this is what happens when international contacts take place with the aim of being used as domestic propaganda to support the idea of a new and improved Greece. This lack of consideration, this improvisation has all the hallmarks of the “proud” negotiations of 2015 with Greece’s lenders. Now this approach is continuing with the extremely delicate matter of Greek-Turkish relations. Things are much worse, however.
More than two years ago, the government set out with a crazy, unattainable dream of changing Europe, tearing up the bailout agreement and being able to spend at will. At least, though, it had a goal. In the case of Erdogan’s visit, everyone is wondering what the ultimate aim of extending an invitation to the Turkish president was, beyond the red carpets, the live coverage and the official photographs.
Published in ekathimerini 8.12.2017