Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Resisting the Siren's Song? after a Strident Nationalist Campaign, Greece's New Government Is Torn by Foreign Policy Choices

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Resisting the Siren's Song? after a Strident Nationalist Campaign, Greece's New Government Is Torn by Foreign Policy Choices

Article excerpt

THE ice creams sold this past summer on the streets of Skopje, capital of the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, were Greek. But since Greece refuses to recognize an independent Macedonia under anything resembling that name, the confections were forced to skirt the Greek-Macedonian border and pass through Bulgaria. The tale of meandering ice cream illustrates what analysts here say will be a central choice over the coming months for Greece and its new government under Socialist Andreas Papandreou. It can play a fully engaged role in southeastern Europe's economic and political development, thereby boosting its own economy and stature. Or it can fall back into old insecurities, further dampening a weak economy and abetting the region's instability.

Discussing that choice with many Greeks can lead one to suspect schizophrenia. Place the discussion in an economic framework, and one hears assurances of Greece's determination to play a guiding role in the Balkan region's development. Some go so far as to compare Greece's role in Southeastern Europe with that of Japan in Southeast Asia.

But shift the discussion to security and one senses a hunkering down:Now the focus is on potentially expansionist Macedonia (a phrase in the republic of Macedonia's Constitution suggests reuniting ancient Macedonia, more than half of which is in Greece); and then there's Turkey, the militaristic, next-door giant that launched the 1974 invasion of Cyprus. Despite Turkey's own growing challenges on its eastern borders, it is still seen here as busy plotting trouble for Greece in Bosnia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Albania.

Analysts here are skeptical of a so-called "sunshine" scenario, in which Greece plays a key role in regional economic development. For them, the "lost opportunities" of the past few years remain fresh memories.

"{The Greeks} put their passion before their good commercial sense," says one. …

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