NATO members Greece and Turkey have come to the brink of war on several occasions in the last 50 years. Now both Ankara and Athens have said they want to demilitarise the Aegean as a way of
cutting defence spending.
Greece and Turkey were nearly drawn into conflict in 1996 over an uninhabited Aegean islet. More shaken now by the debt crisis, the Greeks are earnestly looking at arms reduction. But Athens still places a political condition on this, saying Turkey must respect international law on Aegean and east Mediterranean issues.
Greek military spending in 2008 was 3.2 percent of its GDP, almost 7 billion euros. Turkey spent more than nine billion — roughly the same GDP share, according to NATO. Yet Turkey’s economy is forecast to grow faster than any in the EU this year.
Relations between the traditional enemies have improved since 1999, when earthquakes in both
countries led to spontaneous deliveries of aid and tit for tat rescue and support cooperation.
Hungry to boost tourism revenue, this sector in Greece’s economy is lobbying to remove visa requirements for Turks spending holidays on the Greek islands.