In the Long Shadow of Europe brings together 14 articles on Greece and Turkey with the purpose of finding answers to the following questions: how has Europe affected Greek-Turkish relations; can the rapprochement that started in 1999 lead to the resolution of conflict in bilateral issues; and can the European Union further incite cooperative relations in areas of high politics? The authors of the book argue that, since the formation of their nation-states, both Greece and Turkey and their relations with one another have been affected by Europe. The new post-national European context and the European Union have played at least the part of a catalyst in the current rapprochement. The contributors of the volume, however, “agree that the sustainability of the rapprochement has yet to be consolidated” (p.4). Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the EU’s role would be positive in the future and that the newly formed connections between Greek and Turkish people would be enough to provide a safeguard against the possibility of a prospective crisis between the two neighbors.
In order to analyze these points, the book is divided into three parts. The chapters in the first part provide the historical background and deal with how Greek and Turkish national identities were formed and perpetuated over the years. The second part considers how and to what extent historical interactions and identity formations are reconstituted and reshaped as a result of Greece’s membership in the EU and Turkey’s accession process. The chapters of this part deal specifically with current bilateral issues, such as the Cyprus conflict, the Aegean disputes, and minority and religious rights. The final part of the book, on the other hand, reviews recent developments at the societal level and investigates if economic relations, civil society cooperation, and local interactions can induce changes for the better at the level of high politics.
The book is innovative in its attempt to compile articles that deal with different but related issues in Turkish-Greek relations. In fact, it is surprising that such a thought provoking edited volume does not have a conclusion chapter that could have easily highlighted the common elements of each chapter, determine future areas of research, and even provide recommendations to the policy community and civil society groups. One element that could have been emphasized in such a conclusion, for instance, is the way in which several chapters of the volume demonstrate that Greece and Turkey have shared common political experiences and are more similar to each other in politics than their conflictual pasts would warrant.
The chapter written by Sofos and Özkırımlı, for instance, traces the parallel developments of nationalist discourse in Greece and Turkey and concludes that in both countries this discourse has identified the Aegean and Anatolia as indispensable and non-negotiable territories in Greece and Turkey, respectively. As Millas highlights in his chapter, the two neighboring countries have gone through comparable phases also in their perceptions of one another in novels and academic texts. Nora Onar, on the other hand, identifies a key similarity in the way Greece and Turkey approached their relations with Europe in the formative years of their nation states. Both countries were attracted to European ideas and institutions, ironically, in order to preserve their independence from Europe. It is also possible to add to this list of parallel political histories other common experiences that the book does not analyze, such as similar encounters with authoritarianism, military coups, and the contribution of Europe to democratization.
Despite such similarities in national discourse, political developments, and European experiences, the book clearly demonstrates that Greeks and Turks still perceive each other as the “Other” -an important component of national identity against which the “Self ” can be juxtaposed and defined. Indeed, in both countries misunderstandings and misperceptions of the “Other,” as the obscure enemy, abound. These perceptions are applied also to the Turkish and Greek minorities living in both countries (see the chapters of Kadıoğlu, Grigoriadis, and Akgönül).
The negative images of the “Other” are coupled with unreasonable insistences on political positions that ultimately harm both national interests and prospects for peace. The failure to reconsider previous stands on issues is not only evident in the persistent application of the reciprocity principle in minority rights, but also in the mistaken belief among the Greeks that a “European Solution” in Cyprus (as Ker-Lindsay argues) and settling the Aegean dispute in the International Court of Justice (as Tzimitras shows) would benefit the Greek side more. It is clear that in order to further their national interests and resolve their conflicts, Greeks and Turks must reevaluate their past policies and perceptions.
Such reassessments are difficult in part because of the Greek-Turkish war and the following 1923 exchange of populations. According to Hirschon, forced migration and cleansing the nation from the “Other” is a “loss of shared experience… accompanied by growing ignorance of the ways of others…What is lost is familiarity which carries with it the possibility for under- standing and respect, and this is all too of- ten replaced by suspicion, hostility and the inability to cooperate” (p.83). This is why it is critical for Greeks and Turks to remem- ber and rediscover their common histories and parallel trajectories.
This could, in fact, be the primary benefit of the current rapprochement: increasing contacts between Greeks and Turks might weaken the negative image of the “Other.” Economic interactions between the two countries, on their own, cannot determine the direction of high politics, as Papadopoulos contends. Similarly, as Birden and Rumelili show, cooperation among civil society groups are slow in diffusing into local groups. Yet, such connections might still facilitate understanding at least among the elites. The importance of such contacts is proven by the interviews conducted by Myrivili. Her chapter makes it clear that commercial and cultural contacts between the local populations of Lesvos and Ayvalik have led to the breakdown of old identity commitments, with enough strength to compete with the nationalist state discourse.
In the Long Shadow of Europe draws attention to such contacts among the peoples and gives the hope that, despite the limits of rapprochement and prospects for peace within the EU framework, it is still possible to weaken the national discourse by remembering and rediscovering the similar political experiences of the not-so-obscure other.