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Geopolitics, 11:465483, 2006 Copyright Taylor & Francis Group, LLC ISSN: 1465-0045 print / 1557-3028 online DOI:

: 10.1080/14650040600767909

Geopolitics, Vol. 11, No. 3, June 2006: pp. 132 1557-3028 1465-0045 FGEO Geopolitics

(Mis)understanding the Balkans: Greek Geopolitical Codes of the Post-communist Era

Director, Institute of International Economic Relations, Athens, Greece Associate Professor, Department of Geography, Harokopion University of Athens, Greece

Greek Geopolitical Asteris Huliaras andCodes Charalambos of the Post-communist Tsardanidis Era

For most Greeks, neighbouring countries like Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania and Albania formed a terra incognita for almost half a century since the end of the Second World War. In the early 1990s communism collapsed in all four countries and despite the three bloody wars that followed the break-up of Yugoslavia, information, goods and people crossed Balkan boundaries in unprecedented speed. The paper examines three geopolitical codes about the Balkans that successively dominated Greek views and policies in the last fifteen years: the idea of a menacing muslim arc, the image of the Balkans as a Greek natural hinterland and the idea of the Balkans as an undisputed part of Europe. All these geopolitical ideas were introduced by the Greek political elite and influenced decisively both Greek foreign policy and public attitudes for about half a decade each.
A man encounters an unfriendly group of warriors in the jungle. Are you with us or with the others ? the warriors ask. With you is the mans immediate answer. Sorry, the warriors retort, we are the others. (Story told by Greek Ambassador Loucas Tsilas1)

Ideas influence foreign policy making. They serve as road maps that clarify goals, and act as focal points when deciding among options.2 Quite often ideas about foreign policy are organised in coherent forms. John Gaddis has employed the term geopolitical code to describe an organised set of political-geographical assumptions that underlie foreign policy making.3 A
Address correspondence to Asteris Huliaras, Department of Geography, Harokopion University, Athens, Greece. E-mail: 465


Asteris Huliaras and Charalambos Tsardanidis

geopolitical code includes a definition of a states interests, an identification of external threats to those interests, a planned response to such threats and a justification of that response.4 Geopolitical codes evaluate places and are the spatial expressions of geopolitical efforts to transform a global space into fixed perspectival scenes.5 Geopolitical codes operate at three levels: global, regional and local.6 The local-level code refers to the evaluation of neighbouring countries. Regional-level codes characterise states that can project power beyond their immediate vicinity. Only few states (like the permanent members of the UN Security Council) have worldwide geopolitical codes. Geopolitical codes are linked with geopolitical visions. The latter term is more general and includes, in Dijkinks words, any idea concerning the relation between ones own and other places, involving feelings of (in)security or (dis)advantage (and/or) invoking ideas about a mission or foreign policy advantage.7 Geopolitical visions are translations of national-identity concepts in geographical terms and symbols,8 a kind of national models of the world.9 They are a synthesis of the views professed by various strata of the political elite, the academic experts, the creative intelligentsia and public opinion as a whole.10 Dijkink argues that there is a strong degree of consonance between the (less articulate) popular geopolitical visions and the (more sophisticated) geopolitical codes employed by practitioners of statecraft. Both governments and the public, he argues, are subjected to a mechanism that distorts the information about the world as consequence of the structure of domestic society and national peak-experiences from the past.11 Geopolitical codes and visions do not remain constant and stable but change.12 However, geopolitical visions tend to be more resistant to change than codes. According to Dijkink, even major wars (like the First World War) or lost wars (like Vietnam) are an insufficient cause for changing geopolitical visions.13 In contrast, geopolitical codes can change both radically and within a rather limited period of time. Sometimes a radical change in geopolitical codes is the result of a perceived failure. For example, in Italy the failure of the fascist imperialism that focused on the Mediterranean (the idea of Mare Nostro Our Sea) was replaced in the post-war era by a shift to the north to cooperation with the countrys northern neighbours. Prime Minister Alcide Gaspieri codified this change in a very clear way: Italy, he said, must climb the Alps.14 This change in geopolitical code was linked to a change in geopolitical vision. Italy considered itself not a Mediterranean (like Spain, Portugal or Greece) but a European country (like France or Germany). Quite often the change in geopolitical codes is not linked to a failure or a crisis but simply reflects changes in elite perceptions. Sometimes foreign policy codes die and are replaced by others without any obvious structural explanation. It seems that the reason behind change is not only the external

Greek Geopolitical Codes of the Post-communist Era


milieu, but also what policy makers believe the external milieu to be.15 Foreign policy analysis has shown the importance of leaders beliefs about their environment and has described the cognitive processes that affect the ways new information is processed and incorporated into existing belief systems.16 It seems that geopolitical codes tend to be more important and more prone to radical changes when the domestic actors that are involved in foreign policy making are relatively few and when institutions (like bureaucracies) are relatively weak. Under such conditions, foreign policy decisionmaking is more likely to be dominated by the personalities of the prime minister and/or the foreign minister. According to many observers, this is exactly the case of Greece during the 1990s.17 In that period, the Greek Foreign Ministry apparatus and the Greek foreign policy bureaucracy were extremely weak in contrast to the personal diplomacy exercised by prime ministers, foreign ministers and their advisors. An analyst gives a good example:
The imposition of the [Greek economic] embargo [on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was] announced [in 1994] by the Prime Minister with no prior consultation with the ministry that supposedly is responsible for the foreign policy of the country. Career ambassadors have repeatedly expressed their frustration over being constantly steam-rolled by the ambitions and quest for short-term political gains of Ministers and Prime ministers.18

The term Balkans was invented by Western geographers in late nineteenth century to describe a region that until then was known as the Ottoman Europe. The region was perceived by Western intellectuals and foreign policy makers as a particularly unstable and violent place. As the historian Mark Mazower observes: From the very start the Balkans was more than a geographical concept. The term, unlike its predecessors, was loaded with negative connotations of violence, savagery, primitivism to an extent for which it is hard to find a parallel.19 In the final analysis, like the Orient, the Balkans served as a region, which enabled [major European powers] to see themselves as modern and advanced.20 From the term Balkans, Western intellectuals invented the term Balkanisation. After the First World War, Balkanisation gained official linguistic recognition and acquired several negative connotations as a threat to international order, stability and peace. Balkanisation is now a wellestablished term, generally understood, according to James Der Derian, to be the break-up of larger political units into smaller, mutually hostile states which are exploited or manipulated by more powerful neighbours.21


Asteris Huliaras and Charalambos Tsardanidis

In the early 1990s the well-established derogatory connotations for the Balkans became stronger than ever as the western media and western policy-makers took the view that the violent collapse of Yugoslavia was the product of ancient hatreds.22 In Mazowers words: It is hard to find people with anything good to say about the region, harder still to discuss it beyond good or evil.23 Politicians of the region itself accepted and even reproduced this negative image of the Balkans. In 1999, the President of Slovenia, Milan Kucan, said that the Balkans is like a volcano. You never know where and when the lava will come to the surface.24 Influenced by Edward Said, Maria Todorova has explained how the Balkans was transformed in the twentieth century into one of the most powerful pejorative designations in history.25 Using the term Balkanism to describe this phenomenon, Todorova claimed that the fact that the Balkans were never colonised by Western powers led to its becoming the repository of any manner of fantastic imaginings. However, Todorovas work focused more on western perceptions of the region than on the ways the locals perceive each other.26 This paper is about Greek perceptions of the Balkans. Focusing on the post-Cold War period, it identifies three distinct (and conflicting) Greek geopolitical codes concerning the Balkans: the Muslim Arc (in the beginning of the 1990s), the natural hinterland (in the middle of the 1990s) and the Europeanisation (in the end of the 1990s). All three codes were introduced by the Greek political elite and decisively influenced public attitudes and foreign policy making in Greece for about half a decade each.


For half a century, the Cold War division of Europe made the (rest of the) Balkans a terra incognita for most Greeks. The end of the Cold War seriously changed the ways Greeks perceived the world. In the early 1990s, the collapse of communism left most Greek foreign policy makers believing that their countrys strategic importance was waning. To a certain extent this was also a western perception. In the words of a British journalist typical of western views during that period: With the collapse of the Soviet Empire in Eastern and Central Europe, Greeces usefulness as an eastern bulwark of NATO has disappeared.27 The 1991 Gulf War that coincided with the break-up of the Soviet Union was considered in Greece as substantially increasing the strategic value of Turkey. Thus, Greek policy makers felt that the West (especially the United States) was abandoning them in favour of their countrys main adversary. Events in the Balkans added more to Greek feelings of insecurity creating, in the words of Professor Loukas Tsoukalis, a siege mentality in Greek foreign policy circles.28 Greek policy makers were caught unprepared for the depth of change that occurred in the Balkans after the end of the Cold War. As Greece was a

Greek Geopolitical Codes of the Post-communist Era


FIGURE 1 Geopolitical Code I: The Muslim Arc. Image created by Gregory Tsardanidis.

stalwart supporter of the territorial status quo in the region, it viewed with suspicion (if not fear) the emergence of new states in its northern neighbourhood. The turmoil in the Balkans also had negative economic repercussions for Greece because of the disruption of significant transportation routes to central Europe. At about the same time, hundreds of thousands of Albanians crossed the Greek-Albanian border, in search of a better life. For the first time in its modern history, Greece became the final destination of a mass migration movement of non-Greeks. In short, 19901991 was a period of cataclysmic events in Greeces relations with its northern neighbours. Not since the bloody civil war following the German occupation more than half a century ago had so many Greeks felt threatened. This perception of insecurity was epitomised by the emergence of the Muslim arc idea. In 1991 a geopolitical view appeared in the Greek media and in foreign policy making circles about the existence of a Muslim arc in the Balkans that threatened the stability of the whole region and posed a serious threat to Greek national security. The story was quite simple: Muslim populations of the Balkans formed an axis, an arc from Turkey to Albania, that transgressed Bulgaria, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Kosovo and Bosnia. This arc was considered to pose a threat to the stability of the region since the Greeks thought that Turkey tried to manipulate it in order to create conditions suitable for Muslim secessionist movements (involving also Western Thrace a Greek territory with about 100.000 Muslim inhabitants). Thus, many in Greece preferred to use the term Turkish instead of Muslim or Islamic arc. Consequently, behind the Muslim arc concept was the fear that the Turkish threat to Greek territorial integrity


Asteris Huliaras and Charalambos Tsardanidis

would spread from the eastern to the northern borders of the country. The constant repetition of the Muslim threat theme in innumerable articles in Greek newspapers was extremely effective. As a journalist observes, this message soon achieved the status of a mantra in Greek public discourse as the media conjured up a powerful picture of bloodstained mujahedeen of preferably Turkish descent ready to swarm into Greece.29 Many Greek intellectuals supported and strengthened this view. Just as an academic well known for his moderate views wrote:
Since 1989 Turkey has been making inroads into the Balkan Peninsula via Islamic outposts. More than 5.5 million Muslims . . . reside in a geographic wedge that extends from the Black Sea to the Adriatic, separating Greece from its Slavic Christian neighbours. Turkey is trying to become the champion of the Balkan Muslims. . . . [This] may prove dangerous in a region already torn by separatist movements.30

Nevertheless, the Muslim arc concept was more a political than intellectual construction. One of the most important supporters of the idea was the Greek foreign minister Antonis Samaras. The US-educated minister, probably influenced by the discussion of a future conflict between the West and Islam (a constant theme in US intellectual circles after the Gulf War that was codified in 1993 by Samuel Huntington) thought that it could be useful if Greece presented itself in the international scene as a bastion of the West against an aggressive and expansionist Islam.31 In his own words: We are the spearhead of non-Islamic Europe. And our role in the West is determined by this fact.32 In 1991, immediately after the international recognition of Bosnia, the Greek Foreign Minister declared that theories about the Muslim arc (in the Balkans) are well-founded.33 In the months that followed, the Greek press was full of stories about Islams expansion in the Balkans. The proponents of the Muslim arc idea thought that Greece should develop a counter-strategy aiming at the creation of an alliance of Orthodox forces, or an Orthodox arc. A Greek secret service report that was leaked to the press said that the Orthodox Christianity should form the basis for foreign policy and Greece should seek to create an Orthodox arc in the Balkans to set against the Turkish Muslim arc in the region.34 In mid-1993 Samaras as foreign minister was dismissed by Prime Minister Mitsotakis. He then left the ruling party, provoking the fall of government and new elections, where he participated as leader of a new party (Political Spring). It was then that the former foreign minister made public his vision to form an alliance of Eastern Orthodox states (including Serbia and Russia) to defend Greek national interests against the Muslim arc. A journalist commented that this was the first time a politician ha[d] attempted to involve the Greek Orthodox Church in the modern political process.35

Greek Geopolitical Codes of the Post-communist Era


In practice however, the creation of an Orthodox arc was rather difficult since Greece had already entered into an era of bitter conflict with Orthodox FYROM over the new Republics name36 while in Orthodox Bulgaria the political party representing the Muslim minority became part of the governing coalition. Thus, in the very end, the Orthodox arc was limited in Greek discourse to the Greek-Serb friendship.37 Indeed the Muslim arc concept was extremely simplistic and analytically totally unsuitable.38 Balkan Muslims belong to different ethnic groups and do not form a culturally homogeneous entity. After all, as many analysts point out, in the Balkans, ethnic identity is far more important than religious affiliation. Islam in Albania is very lightly worn. Also Bosnian Muslims at least before the Srebenica massacre were rather secular (described by journalists as the most secular Muslims in the world). Still, the Balkan areas where Muslims form the majority are rather dispersed and fall short of forming an arc from the Black Sea to the Adriatic as claimed by Greek nationalists. Moreover, Turkish foreign policy makers behaved differently from what Greek analysts and foreign policy makers had anticipated. At the beginning of the 1990s, Turkey was very worried (probably as much as Greece) about the redrawing of international boundaries in the Balkans (after all the Turkish government was confronting a domestic secessionist insurgency the Kurdish rebels of the PKK). Moreover, at least in the period 19911992, Turkey did not seem to have a clear strategy toward the region, while its political and economic presence there was rather limited.39 Nevertheless, the Muslim arc concept survived for some years without clashing with reality and significantly influenced the way the crisis in former Yugoslavia and the international interventions in Bosnia (and much later in Kosovo) were perceived in Greece. While one of the dominant discourses in the West claimed that in the Bosnian war the Serbs were the real perpetrators and the Muslims were the victims,40 Greeks understood the situation in exactly the opposite way. For the Greek press and most politicians, the real perpetrators in the Yugoslav conflict were the Muslims helped by other Muslim countries while the real victims were the Orthodox Serbs. Bishop (later Archbishop) of the Greek Orthodox church Christodoulos expressed this view when he claimed:
In Bosnia the Serbs are fighting . . . with a cross in one hand and a gun in the other. They see the Muslims on the other side, trained by fanatic Mujahedeen who have come from various Islamic countries to fight in the name of Allah, to destroy churches, to rape, to massacre noncombatants and children without restraint.41

According to a commentator, Christodoulos enjoyed for many years the highest popularity ratings in Greek public opinion42 not as a defender of the faith or morality, but rather as an outspoken guardian of national identity under imminent threat.43


Asteris Huliaras and Charalambos Tsardanidis

In short, during the 19901994 period, the Greek elite evaluated a part of the region (inhabited by Muslims) beyond the countrys northern border as a threat to its national security and another part (the orthodox) as Greeces natural ally. The Balkans were reduced in Greek foreign policy making circles to security commodities.44 The Muslim arc idea disappeared as a Greek geopolitical code only in the second half of the 1990s because the Greek political and economic elite chose to abandon it in response to a changing regional situation (in particular the signing of the Dayton Agreement). This Muslim arc concept was replaced by another one, that was positive (it did not regard the Balkans as a threat), but also to a large degree deeply problematic.


Since 1995, the defensive geopolitical code of the Muslim arc gradually gave way to a regional superpower idea. Now Greek foreign policy makers saw their country as the most powerful state in the region, the natural leader of the Balkans. The (other) Balkan countries were seen as an El Dorado, full of economic opportunities, cheap workforces and untapped markets. In sharp contrast to the previous period, the Balkan space was considered not as inimical or dangerous but rather as friendly and useful. The new discourse included historical references to the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries when Greek merchants traded throughout the Ottoman Empire. The Balkan peninsula was described as a natural hinterland, ready to accept Greek economic penetration. In the words of Greek Minister of Defence Gerasimos Arsenis: With the end of the Cold War, Greece regains its hinterland in the Balkans and finds herself in front of the challenge to play again her historical role.45 The new geopolitical code was not so much inspired by the Dayton Peace Accords (1995) that brought (a fragile) peace in Bosnia than based on the fact that within a few years, about 3,500 Greek companies (mostly joint ventures with local partners) had set up operations across the Balkans, investing by the mid-1990s probably more than $ 2.5 billion (estimates vary considerably because for tax reasons much of this amount has been directed through Luxembourg or Cyprus-based off-shore companies). Greek trade with its northern neighbours increased spectacularly within a few years. Greek exports to the Balkans (excluding Turkey) went up more than 2.3 times in the 19921996 period, with imports increasing 1.3-fold, creating for Greece a trade surplus of $ 546.2 million in 1996, compared to $ 71.1 million in 1992.46 The interesting thing is that this economic activity until 1996 occurred without the support of the Greek government (to a large extent because of

Greek Geopolitical Codes of the Post-communist Era


FIGURE 2 Geopolitical Code II: The Natural Hinterland. Source: Cartoon published in the Greek weekly To Vima tis Kyriakis (7 September 1997) ( D0907/1and10b.gif.)

the confrontational policies adopted in the early 1990s). As a Greek academic aptly put it: The [Greek] private economy almost completely ignored official policy and proceeded to penetrate the Balkan region, establishing a powerful economic stronghold in practically all the Balkan countries.47 The new geopolitical code was above all closely linked to Constantinos Simitis rise to power. The Greek Socialist Party (PASOK) had returned to power in 1993, led by Andreas Papandreou. In 1996 Papandreou resigned due to ill health and was replaced by Simitis. Simitis and a small group of modernisers were successful in engineering a spectacular change in Greek foreign policy discourse to pro-western positions. This westernisation or modernisation (in Simitis preferred term) of Greek foreign policy included a complete abandonment of nationalistic rhetoric of the Samaras years and a (gradual) rapprochement with Turkey.48 In short, the Greek socialists under Constantinos Simitis tried hard, and were to a large extent successful, in reversing Greeces confrontational policies of the early 1990s and in presenting Greece abroad as a Western nation that attempted to bring stability and economic development to a troubled region. Therefore, Greece moved towards developing its relations with Balkan countries not only at the bilateral but also at the multilateral level, taking


Asteris Huliaras and Charalambos Tsardanidis

initiatives to promote regional stability through the establishment of regional cooperation schemes. These efforts focused on building a new climate of trust and gave birth to a bolder proposal, on Greeces initiative, for the convening of a summit of all Balkan leaders for the first time in recorded history. Finally, the summit took place in Crete in November 1997.49 The natural hinterland idea gradually gained prevalence in Greek elite circles and the media. While in the first period (19911995), most references to the Balkans were found in the political pages of Greek newspapers, now it was the financial pages that took the leading role. In May 1999, the centre-left pro-government daily Ta Nea argued that the Balkans were the ground on which the phenomenon of globalisation first manifested itself for the Greek economy.50 That same day, I Kathimerini, a leading newspaper of conservative centre-right orientation, concluded that the idea of a Balkan hinterland has been one of the foundations upon which the Greek development vision was built.51 Speaking in the Greek Parliament, former Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos criticised some Greek intellectuals who argued that the term hinterland was a Nazi construction, claiming that there was nothing wrong with it in the case of Greeces economic penetration of the Balkans.52 The natural hinterland idea and the relevant discourses regarding Greece as regional superpower or a Balkan hegemon are deeply problematic. First they are, geographically speaking, overstatements. The major zone of economic activity run by Greek operations did not include all the Balkans. Greek companies were present in the countrys three neighbouring states (Albania, Bulgaria and FYROM) and Serbia. However, in other Balkan states the Greek presence was either insignificant (Bosnia and Croatia) or rather weak (Romania).53 Second, although a large part of Greek investment was carried out by Greeces leading banks and food processing companies, most of the Greek investors were small trading companies, retailers and clothing manufacturers seeking to rebuild lost competitiveness by shifting production to low-wage countries such as Bulgaria and Albania.54 As an economist argued, Greek investment projects were labour intensive, small scale operations, [ . . . ] industries with [outdated] technologies, pay[ing] low overheads, compet[ing] on price rather than product differentiation, [lacking] an established brand name.55 Moreover, and more importantly, most of Greek investment in the post-1996 period was not private it came from Greek para-statal companies like the state-owned telecommunications company and the state petroleum company, which have quite often been accused of political clientelism and irrational economic behaviour. Third, the natural hinterland idea ignored the fact that the economic opening to the Balkans entailed several negative aspects for the Greek economy.56 Above all, the Greek investments in the Balkans often increased

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unemployment in Greece (especially in the clothing and textile industries) as companies closed their production units in Greece and transplanted them to countries like Bulgaria or Albania. However, despite these inconsistencies, Greek policy makers, government officials, journalists, academics and the business elite used economic data in a very eclectic way to prove the large-scale and extremely significant Greek economic penetration of the Balkan markets. For example, the number of investments was the preferred way to demonstrate the Greek presence,57 while (more interesting) statistics on the value and structure of investments were largely ignored. Moreover, there was clear confusion between Greeces foreign policy and the role of private actors. Most commentators and politicians in Greece took it for granted that private and public interests coincided, that the interests of Greek businesses and those of the Greek state were identical.58 Only in 2003 did the Greek media start to realise that the Greek economic penetration of the Balkans was not to the benefit of all Greeks. When a multinational clothing company (Palco) closed its installations in Greece and announced that it will open a production unit in Bulgaria, a public outcry ensued in Greece. It was not the first time that something like this had happened. Hundreds of Greek companies had done the same countless times since the early 1990s. But it was the first time the Greeks realised what was going on. Finally, the natural hinterland idea was also based on an old-fashioned view that corporations, when they become transnational or when they relocate to other countries, keep their national identity. Strangely, in the post-1995 period, all businesses with headquarters in Greece were considered as agents of Greek national interests, business people were compared to diplomats, investments were thought of as Greek foreign policy instruments. However, perceptions produced a new reality. It gradually became clear that Greece had major economic interests in the Balkans and that a new political approach to reflect them had become necessary. Therefore, Greek foreign policy priorities and the interests of Greek business have begun to converge as never before.59 As the Greek Deputy Minister for National Economy pointed out, Each one of the Greek companies developing its activities abroad constitutes a bridge of cooperation and contributes to the further development of the relations of friendship and cooperation with the neighbouring countries. We need the relevant support of the companies to accomplish this goal.60 To a great extent Greek businessmen (and some businesswomen) accepted and reproduced the discourse presenting Greece as a regional superpower and did not hide their national pride for their achievements. Of course the new government policy suited them well. But it was also a kind of internal political legitimisation for the Greek business community: for the first time in over 25 years of anti-free market and anti-business rhetoric, the Greek public and media started to regard Greek businesspeople as national heroes.


Asteris Huliaras and Charalambos Tsardanidis


By the end of 1990s, and especially after the Kosovo war, a new geopolitical code appeared: now the discourse of Europeanisation became dominant in Greek foreign policy making. We saw in the beginning of this paper how academics have analysed the coupling of Balkans with undesirable qualities that rendered the identity of their inhabitants as not particularly covetable. The European Union tried to alter this perception of the countries in the region by introducing in 1998 a new geographical division between Western and Eastern Balkans.61 The European Commission saw Western Balkans (that no longer included Slovenia that became a full EU member in 2004) as being closer to the past clichs of political instability and unrest while Eastern Balkans (RomaniaBulgaria) were considered to be closer to European standards, prepared to conclude the next round of negotiations for full membership. The Greek government was more radical. Since 1997 Athens had started to promote the idea of re-naming the Balkans as South-Eastern Europe. Though it was not Greece that invented the term (that existed since the nineteenth century), the Greek Foreign Ministry made a very consistent effort to change the regions name in its endeavour to indicate that the Balkans should be considered an integral part of Europe. The integration of

FIGURE 3 Western Balkans according to the European Commission. Source: European Commission.

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the Balkans into the EU was now considered by Athens to be a number one priority, a factor capable of contributing decisively to the consolidation of stability, democracy and market economy in the region. Therefore, Greek foreign policy makers claimed that only the EU framework could provide the means for cementing peaceful relations in the region, mainly through an integration process that could bring about the same reconciliation as in the case of relations between France and Germany. For Greece, the option of leaving even part of the Balkans permanently outside the European institutional structures was considered destabilising, and could lead to a new round of violent conflict. Greeces national interests in the Balkans were seen as better served via multilateral efforts in the EU framework, rather than via unilateral or bilateral ones. Not only was the nationalistic and opportunistic policy of the early 1990s abandoned,62 but also the bilateral or the regional framework were considered as secondary to the multilateral. Thus multilateral came almost exclusively to mean integration into the European Union. The progressive Europeanisation of Greek Balkan policy was described as a transforming development. Two analysts have argued likewise: Virtually all of Greeces external policy challenges, including some of the most traditional and neuralgic, have now been placed in a multilateral frame.63 But it was more than that: Europeanisation for the Greek government did not only refer to the Balkans, but also to Greece itself. However, despite the rhetoric, Greek foreign policy towards the Balkans is still far from being truly Europeanised. Relations with the Balkan countries continue to reflect to a large extent the ongoing struggle between conservatives/traditionalists and modernisers/transformers in Greek foreign policy making circles.64 On the one hand, the modernisers are proposing a policy of integrating the Balkan states into the European Union and on the other hand, the traditionalists argue that inside the ethnocentric and hostile environment of the region, Greece must first seek to defend its immediate security interests from the rivalries and antagonisms between and among its northern neighbours.65 While the modernisers perceive the Balkans as a region which should be integrated into the EU, the traditionalists see the region as a domain where Greece could emerge as a regional hegemonic power. In the final analysis, the Europeanisation process represents only one side of the wider debate between modernisers and traditionalists among Greek foreign policy makers that is ultimately a debate over Greeces identity. As it is just one element in the debate, Europeanisation of Greek Balkan policy cannot possibly represent a new state of affairs, but only part of a larger picture.66 The continuing dysfunction of domestic institutions and other actors further reinforces the view that Greek foreign policy has not yet become Europeanised. One of the most important dysfunctions is the stance of Greek public opinion on foreign policy issues.


Asteris Huliaras and Charalambos Tsardanidis

NATOs air strikes against Serbia in the spring of 1999 provoked an outcry in Greece. Despite the socialist governments consent within the NATO framework for the attack on Milosevics forces, the Greek media and the Greek public saw the military intervention as an act of aggression not only against Serbia, but also against the geopolitical order in the Balkans.67 Greek public opinion sided almost unanimously with Serbia. The reasons behind this stance vary from long-standing Greek anti-Americanism to a cultural and religious affinity to Serbs.68 But, in sharp contrast to the past, only the Greek public and the media adopted it. The governing elite thought otherwise. On the other hand, the Kosovo crisis was one of those rare moments that the Greek public showed a strong interest in foreign policy issues.69 The Greek public and medias interest in NATOs intervention in Kosovo was strong but short-lived.

Geographical arguments were always on the periphery of Greek nationalism. The Greek state always used historical, rather than geographical, arguments to justify its existence and territorial claims.70 Partly this was a reflection of the Ancient Greek heritage. But also, because of confusion between Greek national and religious identities in the nineteenth century, the Greek elite chose, from the early stages of independence, historical and cultural arguments in order to maximise the new states territorial claims. In this way Greece could justify territorial aspirations that covered a large part of the Balkan peninsula. Thus, for at least the first decades of the twentieth century, the Greek perception of space was extremely vague.71 In practice the importance of historical arguments for Greek national identity survived for decades. Even when the country applied to join the European Communities in 1974, the arguments employed were historical and not geographical: according to the relevant official discourse, Greece was European not because of its geographical location but because she was the birthplace of European civilisation. In the late 1980s, Greeces disappointing economic record, failure to attract investment and its inability (or unwillingness) to adjust to EC regulations led many (including former Commission President Jacques Delors) to question the original decision for accepting her to the European Club. And indeed Greeces economy was falling behind its competitors. In the early 1990s the countrys per capita income had fallen below that of Portugals. Greece was at the time the poorest member-state of the European Union. Its insistence on the copyright of the name of Macedonia contributed to the further darkening of the countrys image in the outside world. In the words of a sympathetic observer, Greece had managed to become, deservedly or not, the black sheep of Europe.72 In 1994, the British Economist claimed that despite 13 years in the European Union and handouts worth $ 6 billion

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a year, Greece still seems to belong more to the volatile Balkans than to Western Europe.73 For the Greek elite and the Greek public, Western perceptions of Greece seemed unjustified and unfair. In 1993, the publication of Samuel Huntingtons famous article on the conflict of civilisations provoked an outrage in Greece, not because of the flimsiness of its theoretical framework, but because it classified Greece in the Slavic Orthodox world and not in the group of Western nations.74 Interestingly, the three Greek geopolitical codes of the post-Cold War Balkans examined in this paper are in nature more geographical than historical. Thats a significant change. It is not necessarily a positive change (as spatial views of the world are no less accurate than historical views). Nevertheless, it is a process of identity change. The Muslim arc was in reality a defensive geopolitical code, reflecting the confusion and inability of Greek foreign policy to adapt itself to the new emerging regional milieu. The Greek political elite constructed a new geopolitical code, aiming at reversing the perceived decline of Greeces geopolitical importance. The Muslim arc concept created a reality suitable for Greek self-perceptions. According to it, Greece was again becoming the geographical frontier of the Christian West against a Muslim menace. The second geopolitical code described the Balkans as a Greek natural hinterland. The poorest European country, the European underdog, thought itself a regional hegemon. Greece considered herself not as a small Balkan country in Europe but as a European power in the Balkans.75 Thus, the Balkans served as a region that enabled the Greek elite, the Greek businesspeople and the Greek public to see their country (and themselves) as a modern and advanced European nation (people). The third geopolitical code was based on the idea of Europeanisation: Greece, though part of the region, considered herself as different from (the other) Balkan states. Greece saw herself as a European country in a Balkan context, a country which was in a position to Europeanise her northern neighbours. As a young Greek academic in full confidence pointed out, Greece could on occasion represent the regional point of view more effectively and accurately in various international fora [because it] possesses a more sophisticated and intimate knowledge of Balkan history.76 In the final analysis, the Europeanisation discourse adopted by Greek foreign policy makers in the past is an effort to offer a solution to the perpetual question of Greek identity (geopolitical vision): if the Balkan countries become members of the European Union, then the eternal Greek identity question (whether the country is Balkan or European) will become less polarised, less antithetical. In a sense, in all three geopolitical codes, Greece, without totally rejecting its Balkan identity, feels different and in a sense more European than its northern neighbours. As in the Greek Ambassadors story (at the beginning of this paper), for the Greek elite, the Balkans are a strange, elusive


Asteris Huliaras and Charalambos Tsardanidis

Other: when Greece approaches the (rest of the) Balkans, the Balkans become something different. It seems surprising that a single geopolitical vision (the feeling that Greece is different from the rest of the Balkans) can produce such a diversity of radically different geopolitical codes in such a short period of time. But on the other hand, Greece is not an exception. As Dijkink observes, each new [United States] administration tends to devise a new geopolitical code designating different countries as hostile or friendly.77 The Greek case seems to confirm the view that geopolitical imaginations or imagined geopolitics yield a variety of totally different options to foreign policy makers.

1. Quoted in K. Nicolaidis, Introduction, in G. T. Allison and K. Nicolaidis (eds.), The Greek Paradox (Boston: The MIT Press 1997) p. 7. 2. J. Goldstein and R. O. Keohane, Ideas and Foreign Policy: An Analytical Framework, in J. Goldstein and R. O. Keohane (eds.), Ideas and Foreign Policy. Beliefs,Institutions and Political Change (Ithaca: Cornell University Press 1993) pp. 330. 3. J. L. Gaddis, Strategies of Containment (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1982). 4. P. Taylor and C. R. Flint, Political Geography: World System, Nation-State and Locality (New York: Prentice Hall 2000) pp. 9091. 5. T. Luke and G. Tuathail, Global Flowmations, Local Fundamentalisms and Fast Geopolitics: America in an Accelerating World Order, in A. Herod, G. Tuathail and S. Roberts (eds.), An Unruly World ? Globalization, Governance and Geography (London: Routledge 1998) pp. 7294. 6. Taylor and Flint (note 4) p. 91. 7. G. J. Dijkink, National Identity and Geopolitical Visions: Maps of Pride and Pain (London: Routledge 1996) p. 11. 8. Ibid. p. 14. 9. Ibid. p. 7. 10. V. Kolossov, High and Low Geopolitics: Images of Foreign Countries in the Eyes of Russian Citizens, Geopolitics 8/1 (2003) p. 125. 11. G. Dijkink, Geopolitical Codes and Popular Representations, Geojournal 46 (1998) p. 294. 12. Dijkink claims that change in geopolitical codes should be one of the central themes of research in geopolitical representations (Ibid. p. 293). And indeed there is a growing literature on geopolitical images. See for example K. Dodds and D. Atkinson, Geopolitical Traditions: A Century of Geopolitical Change (London: Routledge 2000). 13. Dijkink (note 7) p. 141. 14. G. Parker, Geopolitics: Past, Present and Future (London: Pinter 1998) p. 66. 15. H. Sprout and M. Sprout, Environmental Factors in the Study of International Politics, Journal of Conflict Resolution 1(4) (1957) pp. 309328. 16. See among others, A. George, The Operational Code: A Neglected Approach to the Study of Political Leaders and Decision Making, International Studies Quarterly 13(2) (1969) pp. 190222; A. George, S. Walker, M. Schafer and M. Young, Presidential Operational Codes and Foreign Policy Conflicts in the Post-Cold War World, Journal of Conflict Resolution 43(4) (1998) pp. 610625; R.-K. Herrmann, The Empirical Challenge of the Cognitive Revolution: A Strategy for Drawing Inferences about Perceptions, International Studies Quarterly 32(2) (1988) pp. 175204; O.-R. Holsti, Foreign Policy Formation Viewed Cognitively, in R.-M. Axelrod, Structure of Decision (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1976); Robert Jervis, Perception and Misperception in International Politics (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1976). 17. P. C. Ioakimides, The Model of Foreign Policy-Making in Greece: Personalities Vs Institutions, in S. Stavridis, Th. Couloumbis, Th. Veremis and N. Waites (eds.), The Foreign Policies of the European Unions Mediterranean States and Applicant Countries in the 1990s (London: Macmillan 1999) pp. 140170.

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18. D. Keridis, Greek Foreign Policy After Macedonia, Emphasis, A Journal of Hellenic Issues 1 (1995) p. 3, (accessed 6/12/05) 19. M. Mazower, The Balkans (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2000) p. 4. 20. G. Tuathail, Understanding Critical Geopolitics: Geopolitics and Risk Society, in C. S. Gray and G. Sloan (eds.), Geopolitics, Geography and Strategy (London: Frank Cass 2001) p. 115. 21. J. Der Derian, S/N: International Theory, Balkanisation and the New World Order, Millennium: Journal of International Studies 20(3) (1991) p. 488. 22. An example is the book of the American journalist Robert Kaplan, Balkan Ghosts (New York: Vintage 1994). It was reported that the book influenced President Clintons policy in the Balkans. 23. Mazower (note 19) p. 5. 24. S. Wagstyl and S. Fidler, Under the Volcano, Financial Times (28 June 1999). 25. M. Todorova, Imagining the Balkans (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1997). 26. For very interesting but more cultural than political research see D. Tziovas (ed.), Greece and the Balkans: Identities, Perceptions and Cultural Encounters since the Enlightenment (Ashgate: Aldershot 2003). 27. A. Nicolson, A Fall from Cultural Grace, The Spectator (12 November 1993). 28. This mentality in the early 1990s reached a dangerous peak when a group of politicians across the political spectrum apparently decided to invest heavily in nationalist shares. See L. Tsoukalis, The Future of Greece in the European Union, in T. Couloumbis, T. Kariotis and F. Bellou (eds.), Greece in the Twentieth Century (London: Frank Cass 2003) p. 328. 29. T. Michas, Unholy Alliance. Greece and Milocevics Serbia (Austin: Texas A&M University Press 2000) p. 32. 30. T. Veremis, Greece: The Dilemmas of Change, in F. S. Larrabee (ed.), The Volatile Powder Keg: Balkan Security after the Cold War (New York: Rowman & Littlefield 1994) p. 132. 31. P. Vasilopoulos, Samaras Conjecture and Islam, O Oikonomikos 14 (6 September 1990) (in Greek). 32. I Kathimerini (2 September 1990) (in Greek). 33. Quoted in O Fovos tou Islam, Eleftherotypia (21 January 1996) (in Greek), (accessed 7/2/05) 34. For a comment see Balkan Powder Keg, Editorial, The Toronto Star (6 September 1993). 35. G. Kassimeris, Can He Make Spring a Party for All Seasons?, The European (1619 September 1993). For the role of the Orthodox Church in Greek politics see V. Georgiadou, Greek Orthodoxy and the Politics of Nationalism, International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society 9/2 (1995) pp. 295315; T. Lipowatz, Orthodox Christianity and Nationalism: Two aspects of the Modern Greek Political Culture, Greek Political Science Review 2 (1993) pp. 3147 (in Greek); Th. Stavrou, The Orthodox Church and Political Culture in Modern Greece, in D. Constas and T. Stavrou (eds.), Greece Prepares for the TwentyFirst Century (Washington DC: The Woodrow Wilson Center/The Johns Hopkins University Press 1995) pp. 3556. 36. N. Zahariadis, Nationalism and Small State Foreign Policy: The Greek Response to the Macedonian Issue, Political Science Quarterly 109/4 (1994) pp. 647668; D. M. Perry, Crisis in the Making? Macedonia and Its Neighbours, Sdosteuropa 43/12 (1994) pp. 3158. 37. Michas (note 29). 38. D. Constas and Ch. Papasotiriou, Greek Policy Responses to the Post-Cold War Balkan Environment, in V. Coufoudakis, H. J. Psomiades and A. Gerolymatos (eds.), Greece and the New Balkans (New York: Pella 1999) p. 231. 39. S. Kut, Turkey in the Post-Communist Balkans: Between Activism and Self-Restraint, Turkish Review of Balkan Studies 3 (1996/7) pp. 4345. 40. G. Tuathail, Theorizing Practical Geopolitical Reasoning: The Case of the United States Response to the War in Bosnia, Political Geography 21/5 (2002) p. 619. 41. S. Christodoulos The Axis of Orthodoxy Command of the Era . . . Is Moving, To Vima tis Kyriakis (9 February 1992) (in Greek). 42. MRB, Six-month Report, Athens: MRB (June 2005) Tables X, Images of Greek Public Figures: Archbishop Christodoulos, p. 78. 43. G. Mavrogordatos, Orthodoxy and Nationalism in the Greek Church in J. T. S. Madeley and Z. Enyedi (eds.), Church and State in Contemporary Europe (London: Frank Cass 2003) p. 130. 44. G. Tuathail and J. Agnew, Geopolitics and Discourse: Practical Geopolitical Reasoning in American Foreign Policy, Political Geography 11/2 (1992) pp. 190204.


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45. Speech in Patras, Greece, (10 May 1996), (accessed 6/17/05) 03/03c/04/10_5_1996n.htm 46. Greek companies find a regional strength in Balkan businesses, I Kathimerini (English edition) (14 September 1998). 47. P. C. Ioakimides, Greece, the European Union and the Balkans in Post-Cold War Era, in Coufoudakis, Psomiades and Gerolymatos (note 38) p. 181. 48. For a critical view of the first years see A. Kazamias, The Quest for Modernization in Greek Foreign Policy and Its Limitations, Mediterranean Politics 2/2 (1997) pp. 7194. 49. Ch. Tsardanidis, Un acteur-cl dans la rgion de la Grce, Le Courrier des Pays de lEst 1008 (2000) p. 55. 50. 22 May 1999 (quoted in D. Hormovitis, V. Sirinidou and D. Anagnostou, Stereotypes of Domestic Minorities and Neighbouring Peoples in the Greek Press (AprilDecember 1999) p. 18, (accessed 5/21/05) 51. Ibid. 52. Greek Parliament Minutes, Discussion for the Greek Plan for the Reconstruction of the Balkans (13 March 2002). 53. A.-S. Wallden, Greece and the Balkans: Economic Relations, in Ach. Mitsos and El. Mossialos (eds.), Contemporary Greece and Europe (Ashgate: Aldershot 2000) p. 439. 54. K. Hope, EU Outpost Looks Closer to Home, Financial Times, Survey: Greece and South-east Europe (1 June 1998). 55. L. Labrianidis, Are Greek Companies that Invest in the Balkans in the 1990s Transnational Companies? in Mitsos and Mossialos (note 53) p. 479. 56. L. Labrianidis, The Opening of the Balkan Markets and Consequent Economic Problems in Greece, Modern Greek Studies Yearbook 12 (1996) pp. 211235; L. Labrianidis, The Reconstruction of the Balkans and the Role of Greece: A Critical Approach, in G. Petrakos (ed.), The Development of the Balkans, (Volos: University of Thessaly Press 2001) pp. 371396 (in Greek). 57. K. Ifantis, Perception and Rapprochement. Debating a Greek strategy towards Turkey, in M. Aydin and K. Ifantis (eds.), Turkish- Greek Relations: The Security Dilemma in the Agean (London: Routledge 2004) p. 249. 58. The inceased interpenetration of state and society and the shifts, and political fusion, in publicprivate boundaries have resulted, as Orazio Lanza and Kostas Lavdas remark, in a new politicisation of organised interests. This interpenetration takes place not only in the domestic arena but refers also to the priorities of Greek investments abroad and more particularly in the Balkan countries. See O. Lanza and K. Lavdas, The Disentanglement of Interest Politics: Business Associability, the Parties and Policy in Italy and Greece, European Journal of Political Research 37/2 (2000) p. 227. 59. Ch. Tsardanidis, Economic Dipomacy as a Means of Foreign Policy: Greece and South-Eastern Europe, Agora without Frontiers 6(3) (2001) p. 322 (in Greek). 60. Speech by Deputy Minister of National Economy Yannis Zafeiropoulos, 8th Annual Forum of Thesaloniki (unpublished paper 2 April 2001) p. 10. 61. W. van Meurs and A. Yannis, The European Union and the Balkans. From Stabilisation Process to Southeastern Enlargement (Munich: Center for Applied Policy Research, University of Munich September 2002) p. 8, (accessed 3/18/05) 2002_EU_Balkans.pdf 62. D. Kavakas, Greece, in I. Manners and R. Whitman, (eds.), The Foreign Policies of European Union Member States (Manchester: Manchester University Press 2000) p. 148. 63. I. Lasser, F. S. Larrabee, M. Zanini and K. Vlachos, Greeces New Geopolitics (Santa Monica: Rand Corporation 2001) p. 36, (accessed 3/8/05)$15,,,MR-1393-KF,,,Greeces+New+Geopolitics,,,1 64. Theodore Couloumbis suggests a distinction between the multiteralist orientation which tends to be Eurocentric and the uniliteralist which tends toward enthnocentricity. The former emphasises economic and political variables in addition to military ones. The latter recommends reliance on power-military alone. See Th. Couloumbis, Greek Foreign Policy since 1974: Theory and Praxis, Hellenic Studies 5(2) (1997) pp. 4963. 65. Kazamias (note 48) p. 89. 66. Ch. Tsardanidis and S. Stavridis, The Europeanisation of Greek Foreign Policy. Paper presented to the University of Cretes Conference on Thirty Years of Democracy The System of the Third Greek Republic, 19742004, Rethimno (2022 May 2004) p. 24 (in Greek), and Ch. Tsardanidis and S. Stravridis,

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The Europeanisation of Greek Foreign Policy: A Critical Appraisal, Journal of European Integration, 27(2), (2005) pp. 231232. 67. M. Kondopoulou, The Greek Media and the Kosovo Crisis, Conflict and Communication Online 1 (2002), (accessed 3/10/05) 68. See K. Brown and D. Theodossopoulos, Rearranging Solidarity: Conspiracy and World Order in Greek and Macedonian Commentaries on Kosovo, Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans 5/4 (December 2003) pp. 315335. 69. Y. Loulis, The Crisis of Politics in Greece (Athens: I. Sideris 1995) (in Greek). 70. G. Prevelakis, The Return of the Macedonian Question, in F. W. Carter and H. T. Norris (eds.), The Changing Shape of the Balkans (London: UCL Press 1996) p. 143. 71. Ibid. p. 144. 72. Quoted in Ioakimides (note 47) p. 178. 73. Elsewhere in the Balkans, The Economist (17 September 1994). 74. See, among others, Th. Veremis and Th. Couloumbis, In Search of New Barbarians: Samuel P. Huntington and the Clash of Civilizations, Mediterranean Quarterly 5(1) (1994) pp. 3644. 75. G. Prevelakis, The Hellenisation of the Balkans or the balkanization of Greece ? in S. Gerassimou (ed.), Balkans Coming Back (Athens: Agra Editions 2003) p. 158 (in Greek). 76. A. Tziampiris, Greece and the Balkans in the Twentieth Century in Couloumbis, Kariotis and Bellou (note 28) p. 147. 77. Dijkink (note 7) p. 12.