by Antonis D. Papagiannidis
The generous offer of “help” from the Austrian-and-German strong-arm crowd, of fascist/racist/neo-nazi inclinations, to their kin in the Greek border at Evros (and, more dangerously, in the Northern Aegean islands where local vigilantes have been forming nuclei to hunt down refugees and immigrants crossing over from Turkey and to harass NGOs) may after all come to a disappointing end. Disappointing to this kind of crowd.
In a seemingly abrupt about-face, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is once more changing his game: while keeping up the pressure in the Evros Greek border (where EU potentates have declared their solidarity to Greece, claiming the integrity of “European borders”) he seems to have declared that sea-crossings at the Aegean would remain closed; The Turkish coast guard would see to that – the very same who have been carefully inactive these last weeks and declined to respond to the calls of their Greek counterparts when signaling that refugee-laden boats were attempting to cross. Always cunning when addressing international public opinion, Erdogan was reported to motivate his about-face by reference to concern over the refugees’ own safety…
Nobody is fooled – still, a new situation seems to be evolving in the field; (such is the reality of Turkish-European show-down – an almost hostile situation. Turkey has surely obtained assurances for some sort of face-saving at the Syria front face-off. Sooner or later we will discover what else is in the bargain, concerning inter alia the status of East Mediterranean see-zones. For the time being, one should note that while European countries consider the Turkish-Syrian MOU of bilateral EEZ delimitation as carrying no legal effect (“nul et non avenu” according to French terminology – Paris being the closest to Athens in that respect), the US position is quite different. In a recent debate, Matt Palmer – Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs, currently with responsibility for the Western Balkans and the Aegean, with an eye to the EastMed – took the position that the contentious MOU “did not hamper Greece from exercising its own rights”. Some disappointment, here to – of quite different kind.