Prof. Mustafa Aydın’s interview with TA NEA on October 26, 2023

26 Ekim 2023


Prof. Mustafa Aydın made evaluations on Turkey-Greece relations in the TA NEA newspaper published in Greece on October 26, 2023.


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Mustafa Aydin: "20 ideas have been agreed between Athens and Ankara"


The president of Turkey's International Relations Council believes that the positive agenda between Athens and Ankara can pave the way to resolve the difficult differences between them, but he appears pessimistic about EU-Turkey rapprochement.

The cooperation between Greece and Turkey based on the positive agenda of low politics can in the long run pave the way to resolve the difficult differences between the two countries, Mustafa Aydin, president of the International Relations Council of Turkey, (UIK) believes in his interview in "NEWS". 

Aydin, whom we met in Brussels, on one of his many visits around Europe where he promotes his country's issues, appears pessimistic about the EU-Turkey rapprochement. 

"I am one of the coordinators of the Greek-Turkish Forum and we try to support the positive agenda between the two countries. The two governments are working on issues that will probably be announced at the high-level meeting (Supreme Cooperation Council) in Thessaloniki in December.

There are already around twenty ideas that have been agreed upon by both sides in areas such as natural disaster management in the Aegean. When a disaster occurs the two countries cooperate but there is no permanent mechanism.

In dealing with fires, cooperation in archaeological activities, in the participation of civil society, in educational programs, where possible joint programs will be announced. In the commercial sector there is discussion to set a specific target for increasing trade between the two countries.

I am optimistic about the positive agenda at the level of non-political aspects" he states.

In his opinion, "the most important thing is to change the climate of mistrust and for the moment to start cooperation. Contacts between governments are not enough and cannot solve the problem of mistrust.

Many times I refer to the example of France and Germany after World War II when they began to cooperate within European integration. They started investing in scholarship programs for studies, programs to teach each other's languages in each other's country, etc. Only in this way can problems between societies be overcome. 

On both sides, in Turkey and Greece, the societies are not ready to accept a solution of the disputes without question, because the societies have been trained nationalistically.

Only with long-term programs of this kind can we bring the two societies together, increasing the interaction between Greeks and Turks," he explains.

"The idea is to then move on to the more difficult issues in relation to the Aegean, and to start substantive negotiations.

There is hope and expectation that after the high-level meeting in December contacts between different government departments and organizations will be regular. Not only between the Foreign Ministries, but also between the Defense Ministries, the military and perhaps between other Ministries.

I am optimistic that the relationship will become more manageable, I am not saying that Greece and Turkey will suddenly solve their problems, but there are examples from the past when they came very close after negotiations to sign an agreement.

There is precedent and a possibility that they may end up with a joint document in which the two sides will agree even on essential political issues. But it will take time and many discussions.

In the past, Turkey and Greece discussed all issues concerning the Aegean. Now Greece says it is available to discuss only one issue. When one side says it will only discuss one issue it is difficult to make progress. But thanks to the normalization of relations on non-political issues, the discussion can be opened on all issues," he points out.

We ask him if there will be closer cooperation in energy. "There is already cooperation between Greece and Turkey on the natural gas pipeline from Azerbaijan. 

There was talk of bringing natural gas from Israel, from the Eastern Mediterranean to Turkey and then to Europe, but we don't know what will happen now with the situation in Gaza. There is talk of making Turkey a hub for gas and oil from Russia.

I don't know if it is feasible or just a plan given the current political conditions. 

There are all these ideas to make Turkey an energy hub to transfer energy to Europe through Greece. In the Eastern Mediterranean there are possibilities for cooperation, but it is a difficult issue."

Turkish relations with the EU

What do you think about EU-Turkey relations? "I don't see a Turkey-EU rapprochement. Talking to European officials and officials from member states who have weight I find that they have no strategy towards Turkey.

There is talk of revitalizing relations on a number of issues, one being immigration, but it is a transactional issue, it does not go into the essence of EU-Turkey relations, and it is not popular in Turkey. It has become a political issue and the government wants to extract something, more (European) financial aid, transfer of Syrian migrants to Syria or Europe.

In order for returns to be made from the Greek islands, Europe will have to accept the same number of immigrants. The argument is that Europe has not put the mechanism into action. There is also talk of revising the customs union, but it's just talk, no action has been taken.

There was talk of visa liberalization, now the situation is worse than before. The rejection of Turkish visa applications by European states has skyrocketed.

I also see competition everywhere, let's say in the (Western) Balkans. I think Michel had placed Turkey with China and Russia as undesirable influences in the Balkans. But Turkey is an important country in the region. He now takes command of the peacekeeping force in Kosovo, as well as in the Caucasus. At the Granada meeting, Turkey was not invited to participate in the meeting on Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan had said that Turkey should also participate in the meeting. For this reason Azerbaijan did not participate, it was a failure. European states see Turkey as a competitor in their neighboring regions, the Balkans, the Caucasus, the Black Sea, while we could cooperate." We raise the issue of internal reforms, which Europe raises. "There are no indications from the EU that if they do we will proceed. The problem is that there is no trust," he replies.