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NATO has become "brain-dead", but the EU is risking the same fate NATO has become "brain-dead", but the EU is risking the same fate
by Christos Mouzeviris
2020-08-21 09:03:00
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While Europe is focusing on Covid-19 and the Belarus election result is currently dominating the news, another region of our continent is heating up again. The Eastern  Mediterranean is critically volatile, with Greece and Turkey at loggerheads once more.

And albeit Europeans perhaps are so used to these two bickering and their squabbles are not worth mentioning any longer, this time things are different.

chr001_400_02If Europe ever wants to prove itself as competent or willing to deal with crises and become a world player, well it would make sense to start from its own backyard.

Our elites are more than happy to sanction Russia for invading Ukraine and Georgia, or Belarus' Lukashenko regime nowadays, however when it comes to Turkey they look after their own interests.

That constitutes any talk or ambition of a common European foreign policy or influence in the globe's affairs as a joke. For the past year and a half, Turkey has been harassing two EU members, Greece and Cyprus, over their intentions of exploring potential gas and oil reserves in their waters.

In addition, both nations have signed a gas pipe agreement with Israel, cementing their influence in the East Mediterranean region. That naturally annoyed Turkey, which felt left out and wanted a piece of the action.

Faced with internal problems with a crumbling economy and dwindling lira, the Turks are so desperate to freeload on their neighbors' potential, or if not that then at least not let them develop their economy and get an upper hand in the region.

That is simply bulling, of the kind that a thug nation would practice towards other competing countries. Yet the worse part is, that Europe tolerates it.

Greece's EU partners repeatedly scorned it for lack of financial development, reforms and the state of its economy in the past. But, when it tries to utilize its own resources, Europe is not being outraged when Turkey interferes with its efforts, plus in addition Greece has to spend billions in military equipment to protect itself from its "ally" in NATO.

Naturally, this constitutes NATO as a useless alliance for Greece, that not only helps it, but actually being detrimental to its economy. Even the French President Emmanuel Macron stated that NATO is recently "brain-dead," so it is doubtful that this alliance is of any benefit for the Balkan nation.

chr002_400_01Greece's other hope for support, the EU is also being too soft on Erdogan's regime.

Numerous times in the past, the block simply "condemned" Turkish aggression and actions, but this is as far as it went, words and reprimands with sanctions only towards two private Turkish petroleum company owners.

Of course the EU is of yet only an economic block, wanting to play the global power and influence the world, but even on solely financial terms, its stance does not make sense.

One would think that European powers do not really want a strong and prosperous Greece, playing the role of a regional power in the Balkans, rather an unstable, easy to manipulate state.

The country has become a de facto German colony  since the last Eurozone crisis, where it was called to bailout the zone's banks and became hostage to internal German politics, rather than its own.

That puts in question Germany's true intentions in the region. Of all Greece's EU partners, only France showed full support and sent ships in East Mediterranean, angering Ankara even further.

In last Friday's EU minister's meeting, the block again showed support towards Greece and condemned Turkey's actions, by doing nothing; no sanctions but another joined statement and a view to monitor the situation "closely" with a potential decision to be made later in August in Berlin.

This fiasco has been going on for too long and at some stage Europe needs to decide what to do with Turkey, or define its future relationship with it. Understandably there are a lot of financial interests involved from all sides, as many EU member states have close ties with Turkey, especially Germany.

However, if they do not help Greece again this time, they will have to drag the country for ever financially. Stability-whether this is political or economic- in a region brings prosperity. If a country has to spend constantly billions to fend off a hostile nation, then it can never fully reach its potential.

To make matters worse in Greece's case, the competitor is an ally in NATO and none of the other members of this alliance have been able, or willing to decisively mediate and solve this dispute for good.

Perhaps it suits them to sell their billion euro worth of arms to both Greece and Turkey and while these two bicker, their partners get richer. Or in the case of the EU, its members' financial interests in Turkey, prevent them from voting for sanctions towards the country, which could seriously hurt their pockets.

There is no way around this I am afraid. If Turkey is not put in its place, it will just continue to intimidate two EU members and that makes a mockery of the so called "solidarity" of the block. If Europe cannot protect its own states, how on earth can it convince others to listen to it and take it seriously, or ask it to mediate in other conflicts.

In addition, if its periphery is in constant threat and danger, it will never recover economically and that is a bad thing even if the EU decides to remain a solely a trade block. If that is the case, then we better leave any effort of a single foreign policy aside and allow Greece to seek allies elsewhere, that are more decisive and willing.

Right now the country is tied by its alliance with NATO and an increasingly assertive EU that sees itself, or at least tries to do so, as a potential global player. Greece's membership to these two institutions limit it from forming alliances with Russia, China or other Middle Eastern regional powers, hostile to Turkey.

So unless Europe wishes to remain only a trade organisation and allow its states to independently forge alliances with anyone they wish, Greece has no other option but to seek its partners' assistance.

If they decide not to stick by it, or veto any decision that will be of any benefit to Greece just to serve their interests in the region and Turkey, then the Greek government will have no option but to do the same in other matters that may arise, which are harmful to its partners. Or block any new members like Albania with considerable Turkish influence from joining EU, thus adding further obstacles to any potential Turkish sanctions.

That is not a sign of a healthy union, if countries veto decisions solely on financial interests or vindictiveness and not moral obligations and ethics. I personally do not wish to be part of such institution, I would rather just have a trade block for the economic benefits of it, but be free to form military alliances with anyone powerful and willing enough to support my country in any predicament.

The solution of course would be a single foreign policy and a common EU army, that would defend decisively all the block's outer borders from Finland to Greece and from Cyprus to Portugal. But that has been stopped until now by unwilling member states which want the economic advantages of the block, but do not want to risk further political integration.

If the EU and its states continue hesitating and backstabbing each other on key security issues, then soon enough the block will remain together solely on finances, however as we have seen until now, they are a cause of arguments too.

Europeans cannot agree on the union's budget, blaming and slandering each other as lazy tax-evaders or Nazi and tax havens, for about every 10 years when the economy goes from boom to bust. In every crisis the knives are out and while we all know what it needs to be done in order to streamline decision making in the block, especially in the Eurozone, we are reluctant to accept it.

It won't be long, when the citizens of another nation fall for yet a new push by a populist or nationalist Eurosceptic party for a referendum on the country's EU membership. If it is successful and a second member leaves the block, that will be the end of it.

Since all the citizens see is bickering and arguing over the budget and who will pay the bill, plus governments being untruthful to their voters and never revealing the true benefits of EU membership and try to blame the euro or other member states for their country's struggling finances, then there is a toxic mix put in place.

The EU needs to offer other benefits to its member states, apart from trade and a periodic prosperity. If we are going to stick together, we will have to start committing to this project and to each other in all aspects and since the US is preoccupied with itself lately, security is a field that we should be focusing on; starting from the Eastern Mediterranean.

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