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Greece’s diplomatic efforts to become a key regional power

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Due to its important geostrategic position in the heart of the Eastern Mediterranean, Greece has the opportunity to exploit its strengths to become an indispensable regional power for its allies and trading partners. After precariously navigating more than a decade of austerity measures, Athens is now more confident in pursuing its fundamental interests and has increased a series of diplomatic overtures in recent months. To this end, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis welcomed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Greece and hosted an informal dinner for Balkan leaders in August. Then, in September, the Greek prime minister met with his Israeli and Cypriot counterparts to advance a lucrative regional energy initiative.

If Greece manages to exploit the means and channels at its disposal, Athens could position itself as a crucial gateway to Europe, a central node in an emerging country. Mediterranean energy hub and a regional leader in the Balkans. Greece could also assuage some of its worst security concerns coming from its de jure NATO ally and neighbor, Turkey.

One of Greece’s main strengths is its tradition of maritime power. Greece has only recently been overtaken by China as the world’s largest commercial fleet operator. The combined value of the Greek fleet is estimated at $163 billion, and its tonnage exceeds that of more economically powerful states with large commercial fleets such as Japan, South Korea and the United States. Greece benefits from a geostrategic crossroads with maritime access to Europe, North Africa and Asia, with the ports of Piraeus, Thessaloniki and Alexandroupolis functioning as access points to the Europe and Asia. Black Sea region.

Thanks to its membership of the European Union and its strong maritime position, Greece is well placed to present itself to emerging powers as a gateway to the European bloc. The recent visit of Narendra Modi Cooperation with Greece appears to have borne fruit in this regard, as New Delhi and Athens agreed to evolve their bilateral relationship into a strategic one. Indeed, following a meeting with his Indian counterpart, the Greek Prime Minister said that his country would act as a “dynamic gateway” to Europe. Furthermore, Modi said the two countries would aim to double bilateral trade by 2030 and that Greece and India would cooperate more closely in the areas of security and defense, agriculture, tourism, technology and education.

For Greece, which seeks to strengthen its relations with emerging powers like India, will become increasingly important as the world order evolves towards multipolarity. A solid diplomatic strategy will also allow Greece to better position itself as a key member of the European Union and NATO, rather than becoming the economic backwater to which it was relegated in late 2009. Greece does not have not the power to have a significant impact on world politics. at the highest levels, but it can punch above its weight as a leading voice in a multilateral framework. By becoming a crucial access point between Europe and the rest of the world, Athens will exert greater influence within the European Union and, therefore, greater leverage to secure its national interests.

Greece can further strengthen its influence by also playing an active role in regional politics. The Balkans are traditionally marked by instability, but there are also opportunities for Greece to play a leading role in a multilateral framework. Currently, five Balkan countries are candidates for membership in the European Union: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. Thanks to Greece’s long-standing historical and cultural ties with the region, Athens can play a key role in the upward process by acting as a regional stabilizer – a role that is once again within reach now that the economy of the country is on more stable ground.

Concretely, Athens could seek to strengthen economic cooperation, infrastructure and connectivity, energy security, cultural exchanges and support for reform. Greece should seek to facilitate dialogue and multilateralism in the region, as it did in late August when several Balkan leaders alongside President Volodymyr Zelensky gathered in the Greek capital for an informal dinner, culminating in a joint statement regarding the war in Ukraine. By acting as a facilitator of regional cooperation, Greece can position itself as the first point of contact for foreign officials when problems arise in the Balkans. The emphasis of such an approach would be on diplomacy and soft power. However, Greece will need to ensure that disputes with neighbors like North Macedonia and Albania do not harm its outreach efforts.

Another important way Greece serves as a gateway to Europe is through the vital energy sector. Europe’s efforts to wean itself off Russian energy have created new opportunities for Athens to serve as a bridge between the European Union and alternative energy providers. Relatively recent discoveries of natural gas in the Eastern Mediterranean raised the stakes in the region, with the leaders of Greece, Israel and the Republic of Cyprus meeting in September to discuss further cooperation in the energy sector. Eastern Mediterranean gas could make a significant contribution to meeting Europe’s electricity needs. To this end, the European Union has supported Euro-Asia interconnection the submarine cable is expected to deliver an initial capacity of 1,000 megawatts of electricity to Europe via networks linked in Israel and Cyprus to Greece by the end of the decade.

Greece is also in talks with Egypt to facilitate the construction of a 1,373 km long bridge. submarine cable which will connect the Greek and Egyptian electricity networks. THE GREGY interconnector is expected to provide Europe with 3,000 megawatts of electricity via Greece when completed in seven to eight years. The GREGY Interconnector has been identified by the European Commission as a Project of Common Interest (PCI) and is therefore eligible to receive public funds. If the project is completed, Athens will be able to further position itself as a key node in European energy infrastructure.

Greek policymakers will need to be aware that the country’s position at a geostrategic crossroads is a double-edged sword and that threats near Greece will outweigh opportunities if not managed well. The main threat comes from Turkey and its revisionist ambitions regarding the region’s territorial and maritime borders. This could pose a range of problems for Greece, from potentially limiting its ability to facilitate lucrative energy deals to open conflict.

In recent months, the exceptionally poor state of relations between Athens and Ankara has improved, largely thanks to tensions that arose in February when parts of Turkey were flattened by earthquakes. The result of this “seismic diplomacy” is that the leaders of the two countries are now on good terms again and that dialogue is possible again. The two countries have proven their capacity for solidarity in the face of natural disasters, as was the case in 1999 and more recently this year. Greek diplomats should seize the momentum and encourage rapprochement while this feeling of goodwill persists.

However, previous periods of détente between Athens and Ankara have failed to resolve the long-standing disputes that have largely poisoned Greek-Turkish relations. Greece should aim for a long-term diplomatic resolution of these issues, but must also be prepared to deter and repel hostile actions by Turkey if the current improvement in relations does not result in a prolonged rapprochement. Naturally, effective deterrence relies largely on a credible military component, especially since senior Turkish officials have repeatedly questioned Greece’s sovereignty over its own territory; but there is also room for strategic diplomacy.

Athens should consider, where appropriate, resolving differences with Ankara in a multilateral framework. As a member of the European Union, Greece is able to take advantage of Brussels’ greater leverage in conflicts with external actors. Greece and Cyprus successfully achieved this in 2019, when the The European Council agreed to downgrade relations with Turkey after both countries protested the presence of the Oruç Reis – a Turkish research vessel – in disputed waters off the Greek island of Kastellorizo.

Furthermore, Greece should seek to become a more indispensable ally within NATO, of which Turkey is also a member. Historically, Washington has tolerated Ankara’s pursuit of its interests at the expense of other U.S. allies, largely due to Turkey’s immense geostrategic value. Henry Kissinger’s tacit support for Turkey invasion of Cyprus in 1974 is a good example. Nonetheless, the United States and Turkey have increasingly diverged on several important security issues in recent years, such as the status of the Kurds in Syria and Turkey’s decision to purchase Russian territory. S-400 surface-to-air missile system which resulted in the expulsion of Ankara from F-35 program. Greece enjoys many of the same geostrategic advantages as Turkey and is more of a status quo power, making conflicts of interest with the United States and other NATO allies less likely. Greece should therefore deepen its defense cooperation with the United States and NATO. By doing so, Athens’ interests could gain credibility if threatened by Turkey.

Ultimately, Greece’s national interests will be best served if it is able to leverage its innate geostrategic advantages while limiting its vulnerabilities. As a regional power, Greece does not have the military, economic or political clout to reshape the global order, but by forging the right partnerships, it will be possible for Athens to successfully meet the challenges and opportunities of the he emerging multipolar world order.

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