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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 09 December 2017
COMMENT 2 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 9 DECEMBER 2017 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Greece’s President Prokopis Pavlopoulos (right) listens to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) prior to their meeting in Athens on Thursday 7 December. PHOTO: YASIN BULBUL/POOL VIA AP When President Pavlopoulos stepped on President Erdogan’s toe NIKOS FOTAKIS There is one example of a state leader, proudly bending protocol, during a press conference to express the will of his countrymen and fearlessly standing up against another state leader, a bully hijacking an official visit, to claim his territory. It was Hugh Grant, playing a fictional British PM and publicly scolding the villainous US president, played by Billy Bob Thornton. This, of course, happened in the now-classic holiday movie Love, Actually; both actors played caricature versions of Tony Blair and George W Bush and the scene was designed to make audiences cheer - one feelgood moment in a film that is a succession of feel-good moments. Prokopis Pavlopoulos had his Hugh Grant moment on Thursday, during the Turkish president’s historic visit to Athens, the first of its kind in 65 years. The president of the Hellenic Republic saw fit to NEOS KOSMOS Published since 1957 Published by Ethnic Publications Pty Ltd (ABN: 13005 255 087) of 169 Burwood Rd, Hawthorn, Victoria 3122. Printed by ACM Printing, 126 Fairbank Road, Clayton South 3168. No. 5972 Contacts Reception Phone: (03) 9482 4433 Fax: (03) 9482 2962 Email: email@example.com Advertising Phone: (03) 9482 4433 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.neoskosmos.com letters Email: email@example.com NEOS KOSMOS - English Publisher: Editor-in-chief: Editorial director: Journalists: Address: Level 1, 169 Burwood Road, Hawthorn, Victoria 3122 Subscriptions Phone: (03) 9482 4433 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Fax: (03) 9482 2962 Letters should not be more than 200 words and they must indicate your full name, address and a day time telephone number for verification. By submitting your letter to us for publication you agree that we may edit the letter for legal, space or other reasons and may, after the publication in the paper, republish it on the internet or in other media. Christopher Gogos Sotiris Hatzimanolis Nelly Skoufatoglou Anastasia Tsirtsakis, Nikos Fotakis Contributors: Eugenia Pavlopulou, Stuart McLennan, Theodora Maios, Dean Kalimnios, Con Stamocostas, George Stogiannou, Jim Claven, Billy Cotsis Proofreader: Allyson Griffith Graphic design: Peter Kelidis, Vangelis Karakasis Mail: PO Box 6068 Hawthorn West, Victoria 3122 deviate from protocol and respond to statements made by Recep Tayip Erdogan in a TV interview the previous night, in which he questioned the validity of the Lausanne Treaty and raised issues of a “Turkish” minority in western Thrace, the appointment process of the region’s Mufti etc. “Many things have changed in 94 years,” Erdogan said, referring to “outstanding issues” in the treaty that need to be addressed President Pavlopoulos chose to confront the Turkish president, saying: “The Treaty of Lausanne defines the territory and the sovereignty of Greece and of the European Union and this treaty is, for us, non-negotiable. It has no flaws, it does not need to be reviewed, or to be updated.” A veteran politician (he served as Minister of Interiors in the Karamanlis government, when the latter served as witness to Erdogan’s daughter’s wedding) and a celebrated professor of constitutional law he knew that it was against protocol to address this issue with his opening statements with TV cameras running. Erdogan did not avoid the opportunity to respond and veered away from protocol himself, stating that he cannot leave this unanswered. He talked about a Greek state “discrimination” against the “Turkish” minority in the western Thrace, which is home to around 145,000 Muslim Turks and noted that the national income in Greece is around US$18,000, while the average in western Thrace is only around US$2,200. Pavlopoulos in his turn responded and it all escalated into a tense back and forth between the two leaders. This was not the first time a president of the Hellenic Republic has done such a thing. The late Kostis Stephanopoulos had delivered a fiery speech, albeit within protocol provisions, when Bill Clinton visited Greece, making a harsh critique of the US policies regarding Turkey, Cyprus, Serbia, its role in NATO bombings of Serbia, and yes, making reference to the Lausanne Treaty. It was a historic visit of its own, during which the US president officially apologised for his country’s implication in the 1967-1974 dictatorship. Many Greeks had cheered at the time, finally seeing a Greek head of state standing up to a powerful US leader. Some also cheered yesterday when they saw the Greek president decisively set out Greece’s non-negotiable hard lines. Not everyone cheered, though. Some felt unease; deeming this as another cringeworthy moment, Greece offering a Turkish bully the opportunity to make preposterous claims and demands inside the presidential residence. The Opposition didn’t waste any time, making a statement to condemn the Greek Foreign Ministry’s unpreparedness towards one of the most infamously unpredictable state leaders in the world - one that other officials have made a point in avoiding, recently. President of PASOK - and as of recently, leader of the newly established centre-left coalition, Fofi Gennimata, was also quick to deem the visit a “fiasco”, a characterisation swiftly adopted by many critics. Greek media - always divided - also echo this word. Surprisingly, not even those most devoted to Erdogan media in Turkey were eager to say that Greece was defeated. Reports and analysis confirm the tension and the harsh attitude of both parties, but they have no reason to gloat. Because really, Erdogan did not win this. On the contrary, he had to publicly state, without any doubt, that Turkey has no territorial claims and, more importantly, his questioning of the Lausanne Treaty was shot down by European officials. The Euractiv media platform quotes an EU official making it clear in reference to the Turkish president that “all candidate countries must respect international treaties.” So, in the end, did Pavlopoulos make a diplomatic faux pas? Most probably, yes. His role is primarily ceremonial, meaning that he could not further pursue this dialogue, even if he wanted. He knowingly led the visit to an awkward direction. But in doing so, he also made Erdogan show his true colours; and he offered the - unprepared, yes - Greek government the chance to put a firm foot down. As for the real subject of the visit, all the trade and political dealings, the energy deals, the nuts and bolts of day-today activities; they were discussed behind closed doors. It is all business as usual. And it is definitely not love, actually.
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