Tuesday, July 16, 2024
 
 

The Eastern Mediterranean sideshow

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We have just been through a week in which the world focused its attention completely on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.  Second place went to Afghanistan thanks to the American September withdrawal announcement, with the COVID-19 pandemic in third place. 
Those of us based in Southeast Europe suffered a rude awakening.  The daily deluge of media reports seen in this region about Greek-Turkish disputes in the Eastern Mediterranean, dogfights over and around the Aegean Sea and even about EU-Turkey competition in Libya fell off the international media playlist while most journalistic coverage zeroed in on the War in the Donbass, Crimea, and the rest of the Russia-Ukraine border region. 
For the global audience, news about Greek-Turkish high-level meetings, the status of the Bosporus, Cyprus, and future pipelines connecting oil and gas fields off the Israeli coast to Europe simply disappeared.   
This leads us to two important conclusions.   First, when the geopolitical circuits zero in on East-West matters, all eyes focus on the responses from major Western capitals, NATO, Kyiv, and Moscow.  The East Mediterranean and related issues become a distant memory, in effect just a sideshow.  
It is understood that this conclusion is not something that professionals focused on the region would like to see acknowledged, as it cuts into their core mission, whether it be media, analysis, lobbying or simply for-profit creation of conferences focused on these topics.  
Second, it’s time to reassess whether educated readers anywhere actually need the never-ending stream of pronouncements on these second-level regional issues. Sure, one can understand that the media in Greece, Cyprus and Turkey exist to propagate their national perspectives, i.e., to tell the story as they see it.  But does it matter enough to transmit it repeatedly and via multiple outlets to audiences outside that local news envelope?  
With the past week as a reference point, one can thoughtfully answer that question with a “No.”          
Take as an example the so-called “Sofagate” issue that emerged from Ankara on April 7. The snubbing of a high-level woman representing the European Union (Commission President Ursula von der Leyen) while meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan matters to local journalists, a small group of single-issue NGOs and of course meme-producers. One week later only the memes remain. 
As do the big issues.

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CEO/Editor-in-Chief.  Former US diplomat with previous assignments in Eastern Europe, the UN, SE Asia, Greece, across the Balkans, as well as Washington DC.

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