Greek-Turkish Relations and the Geopolitical Aspirations of Turkey

Belgium, Brussels, 1000, Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies, 20 Rue du Commerce
Tuesday, November 29 2016 / 12:30


Greece and Turkey, two of the oldest NATO members, never had smooth relations. History and modern challenges have shaped their policies and strategic priorities. The Cyprus dispute remains a long-standing issue between the two countries.During the last ten years, the balance of power between the two neighbours has been affected by pressing economic, social and political changes.

Greece is experiencing a devastating economic crisis and an unprecedented influx of refugees that has challenged the country’s resources. Euroscepticism and extreme populist voices have gained substantial ground in the political scene. National social cohesion appears damaged and emigration, especially among the young, has increased significantly.

On the other hand, Turkey under Erdogan’s leadership has managed to substantially increase its economic and military capabilities. July’s failed coup d’état gave the Turkish government the opportunity to consolidate its power, however, it jeopardized the rule of law and its relations with the EU. Tensions with Israel and Russia, economic engagement in the Balkans and the recent military operation in Syria- and possibly in Iraq- show the desire of Turkey to increase its importance in the geopolitical chessboard.

Events in the last two years highlight that the country is still vulnerable to increased internal instability. Erdogan’s recent statements about the Lausanne Treaty (1924), conjured up ghosts of the past on both shores of the Aegean and created strong reaction from the Greek side. What is the future of this complicated alliance? How could the ambitious plans of the Turkish regime affect stability in the wider South East Mediterranean, especially after Trump’s election? Is Turkey still as asset for European Security? Is EU ready to deal with a more authoritarian Turkey?