The Greek elections, which were held last Sunday for the second time in six weeks and were considered the country’s most critical in 40 years, were welcomed by Turkey, bringing hope for the maintenance of good relations between the two neighbors.
Turkey expects that the new government will maintain its relations with Turkey without marginal changes. According to the official results, the center-right New Democracy Party won 30 percent of the counted votes and 130 of the 300 seats in Parliament. The radical anti-bailout SYRIZA Party had 26.6 percent and 71 seats, and the pro-bailout Socialist PASOK Party came in third with 12.5 percent of the vote and 33 seats. The two traditionalist parties, the New Democracy Party and PASOK, are expected to form a government. Turkey welcomes the coalition of the parties, which have worked closely with Turkey in recent years.
“Turkey will continue its bilateral relations with the new government in the context of a ‘working relationship,’ which would be to Greece’s benefit,” said a Turkish diplomatic official, who spoke to Today’s Zaman on the condition of anonymity, adding that the Turkish side expects the same good relations to be maintained in the new era.
The official also added that Turkey hopes Greece overcomes the economic crisis as soon as possible. “The economic crisis in Greece is also a concern for Turkey. Any fiscal instability in the neighboring country can affect Turkey, which is not a desirable situation,” said the official.
Greece has been dependent on rescue loans since May 2010, after sky-high borrowing rates left it locked out of the international markets.
Meanwhile, in Sunday’s elections three politicians of Turkish descent from Western Thrace entered the Greek parliament as members. Two of the parliament members represent SYRIZA, and one of them is from PASOK.
The same official stated that the election of the three politicians of Turkish descent was an important development for Turkey.
Touching upon the results of the election, Mustafa Kutlay, an analyst at Ankara’s International Strategic Research Organization (USAK), told Today’s Zaman that there would be no radical break or improvement in relations with Turkey, adding that the status quo would continue in relations. “Radicalization in relations could be expected if SYRIZA were to form a coalition. They could use harsh rhetoric towards Turkey as political material,” said Kutlay.
“PASOK and New Democracy have political experience with Turkey. They were the main actors who softened relations between the two countries over the last 10 years. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan first developed relations with New Democracy leader Kostas Karamanlis and then maintained these relations with PASOK leader George Papandreou,” said Kutlay, adding that Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has also developed close relations with Greek officials.
Erdoğan’s visit to Greece in 2004 constituted the first official visit by a Turkish prime minister to Greece in the last 16 years. The first prime ministerial visit from Greece to Turkey, after 49 years, was that of former Prime Minister Karamanlis in 2008.
Prime Minister Papandreou, immediately after his assumption of office in 2009, paid a visit to Turkey, which marked the beginning of a new phase in relations between the two countries. The new phase was strengthened by Erdoğan’s visit to Greece in 2010, upon the invitation of Papandreou.
“There is no Papandreou or Karamanlis now, but both parties [PASOK and New Democracy] have a particular policy line towards Turkey. Therefore, they will also follow this line in the current period,” said Kutlay.
The analyst also added that it would not benefit Greece to break relations with Turkey while facing serious economic crisis. “Breaking relations with Turkey would be a risk Greece would not like to take in such a situation,” said Kutlay, adding that Greece does not at this point have the political stability or economic power, considering military expenditures, to confront Turkey.