The relationship between Turkey and the EU has never been easy. Already, the Lausanne Treaty of 1923, which established the international legitimacy of the nascent Turkish Republic, has created a framework of institutional competition and rivalry between Turkey and Greece.
Both countries, despite very close political choices in modern times, have always had to adopt antagonistic positions periodically.
Greek history after 1923 is as sad as the Turkish history. But to the advantage of Turkey, which managed to escape participating in WWII, Greece was first devastated by the Nazi occupation, followed by a very bloody civil war whose scars have never completely healed. Both countries were placed under the "U.S. security umbrella" by the Truman Doctrine of 1947 and they both joined NATO in 1952, having both participated in the Korean War beforehand.
Greece was the first to address the burgeoning European Economic Community in 1959, immediately followed by Turkey.
Their years of initial association with the EEC were impregnated with military coups, in 1960 in Turkey and 1967 in Greece.
Both countries have had very distant and hostile relations, despite the complementarity nature of their economies and trade relations.
The population exchange between mainland Greece and Turkish Anatolia that took place in 1923 has continued, through forcible deportations or voluntary exiles throughout the 20th century, always poking at a dormant enmity between the two countries.
Both countries official historiography depicts the other as the "invader," against whom a War of Independence had been successfully waged, in 1826 for Greece and in 1920 for Turkey.
The rupture in relations was completed in Cyprus, in 1974, where already a very hesitant and conflicting situation prevailed after independence in 1961. A coup staged by the extreme right to annex the island to Greece prompted the Turkish army to intervene and in two separate operations, invade 40 percent of the island, creating a safe zone for Turkish Cypriots, but also occasioning a mass exodus of 150,000 Greeks and 30,000 Turks.
Scattered remains of mutual trust between the two countries were completely lost after 1974. Surprisingly, the tragic defeat in Cyprus triggered the demise of the military dictatorship, opening wide the doors of the EU to Greece. The EU, for the first time in its history, will make a political decision to include a backward country as a member state, in order to safeguard and consolidate its fragile democracy.
Thirty-three years have gone by. Greece has missed all the opportunities to reform her administrative structure and economic infrastructure, but consistently and successfully sabotaged Turkey's attempts to get closer to the EU. With the membership of Southern Cyprus 10 years ago, two Hellene states have put insurmountable obstacles in front of Turkish membership. Now they both very badly need swift normalization with Turkey and her economy. How will it be done?
A recent report by the Independent Commission on Turkey, which included input from dedicated Europeans such as Michel Rocard, Emma Bonino, Anthony Giddens or Martti Ahtisaari, among others has described the situation in 2009 as follows: "Regrettably, negative reactions since then [the beginning of negotiations] from European political leaders and growing hesitation by the European public about further enlargement, have given Turkey the impression that it is not welcome, even if it were to fulfill all membership conditions. Moreover, the process itself has been hindered by the effective blockage of more than half of the negotiating chapters." The new report, written four years later, is not less gloomy, but now many are more anxious to see whether relations between Turkey and the EU can gain new momentum.