The eastern Mediterranean has been attracting a lot of attention, especially since the early 2010s, mainly because of the natural resource discoveries and the changing interstate relations. I’ve been following these developments since the beginning with a number of opinion editorials in English and Greek. By 2013 my interest started turning into a small research project. The results were published in different – albeit thematically overlapping – papers over the course of 2015 and early 2016 (see below). Though I thought that the latest article would conclude this project, as I’m now turning my focus towards the “Islamic State”, Turkey and the Middle East, it’s likely that the ongoing rapid developments will lead to more research on this subject. Contact me for more information.
On Sunday, July 5, 2015, the Greek people gave a clear ‘No’ to a proposed bailout deal by the Troika (the European Commission, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank). Though the national referendum was specifically about the Troika’s proposed plan, both Greek and European leaders and the media transformed it into a vote on Greece’s participation in the Eurozone and ultimately the European Union. The Syriza-led government vocally supported the ‘No’ vote, arguing that the position would provide Greece with the leverage to negotiate a better deal with the creditors. Traditionalist center and right-wing parties supported the ‘Yes’ vote, voicing concerns that a rejection of the Troika deal would lead Greece to default, a return to drachma (Greece’s pre-Euro national currency), an exit from the EU, and eventually international isolation. Continue reading
Much has been said and written about the foreign policy that will be followed by the newly-elected coalition government in Greece that consists of majority Syriza (Coalition of the Radical Left) and minority center-to-right wing ANEL (Independent Greeks). Much of the fear-mongering and gloom analysis stems from assumptions that Syriza and many of its members (such as new Foreign Minister Dr. Nikos Kotzias) are anti-European, leftist nationalists and pro-Russian. A short evaluation will show that although we might witness some foreign policy alterations due to the rise of Syriza, they will neither be to an “axis-shift” extent nor, for example, akin to the change that we’ve witnessed in Turkey under the Justice and Development Party (AKP). Continue reading
By Zenonas Tziarras* & Ioannis-Sotirios Ioannou**
The Coalition of Radical Left (Syriza) was the big winner of the Greek national elections of January 25, 2015, as expected. With 36.34% of the votes, Syriza and its leader (now Prime Minister) Alexis Tsipras won 149 seats, two seats shy of absolute majority. New Democracy, of now former Prime Minster Antonis Samaras, came second with 27.86% and 76 seats. Syriza chose to form a coalition government with Panos Kammenos’ populist and far-right (though often-referred to as center-right) Independent Greeks (ANEL), that won 13 seats with 4.8% of the votes. Not only that, but Tsipras appointed Kammenos as the new Minister of Defense. Although leftist Nikos Kotzias, Syriza’s new Foreign Minister, is more cool-headed and pragmatist, if assertive, than Kammenos, the Ministry of Defense plays an important role in security issues and Kammenos might adopt a harder line that could challenge Greece’s overall foreign policy with particular respect to relations with Turkey and Israel. Overall, these developments may signal a new approach in Greek foreign policy on issues ranging from the EU, to Russia and the Eastern Mediterranean. Continue reading
In October of last year, Russia, Israel and Cyprus conducted a joint naval exercise in waters of the Eastern Mediterranean. Though scheduled well in advance, the timing of the drill could not have been more opportune for Cyprus; the Barbaros, a Turkish seismic vessel dispatched by Ankara in order to survey the sea floor for hydrocarbons, had just entered the bitterly contested Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) between the two countries.
The affair triggered a flurry of diplomatic action. Israel called on Turkey to respect Cyprus’ right to explore for natural gas within its maritime boundaries, and Cyprus insisted that the vessel immediately withdraw. Not surprisingly, President Erdogan rebuffed these demands, and avowed that the Barbaroswould remain at sea until a distribution deal was reached for the riches beneath. Continue reading