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The question of whether Greece remains in or tumbles out of the European currency may well have been decided by the time this article is published. Whichever way the referendum has now gone, my argument here is substantially broader than the current dispute, involving the extent to which Greece forms an essential part of the European geo-cultural community; a question more of an eternal nature than a merely temporal one.
As Greece’s economic health began to flatline in 2007/8, many chauvinist types in Northern Europe (specifically, British, German, Finnish and French conservatives) were quick to ask questions like – “How important is Greece to us anyway?” – “Who cares about Greece?” – “Is Greece/are the Greeks even European?” – “Why does Greece matter to us?” etc….
The attitude underpinning such enquiries would eventually lurch to the wild extreme in the German weekly newspaper Die Welt in which a columnist revived the canard that modern day ‘Greeks’ are not actually the famous ‘Greeks’ of old.
“The idea” he wrote “that the Greeks of modern times are descendants of Pericles or Socrates and not a Turkish-moulded mixture of Slavs, Byzantines and Albanians, used to be a belief among most educated Europeans. The architects of the EU themselves could not escape this belief. In this context, they brought clammy Greece into the European boat in 1980. The consequences can be seen every day.”
I’m not a geneticist and so cannot comment on the ‘Greeks are not real Greeks’ theory, but in regard to the first set of questions, the answers (in order) are as follows – “It is hugely important” – “We all should.” – “Yes.” – “Because of Islam.”
As alert observers (or at least anyone with a map and a brain) will have known for some time, the fate of Greece may foretell the fate of Europe… For over a thousand years, Greece has been the fighting border-guard of the West against the world of Islam, and should it fall now, or – just as bad – shift allegiance, our civilisation becomes at once a thousand times more precarious.
The Turkish army, for hundreds of years the nemesis of Greek aspiration, is the strongest in the Muslim world and considerably larger and better maintained than any in continental Europe. Indeed, Turkey’s military is the only non-European army currently occupying European land in contravention of international law.
According to most international rulings on the subject, the island of Cyprus is part of Greece. Turkey’s hold on the northern half of the territory is put up with only out of fear of Turkish arms.
Throughout history, various other Greek islands have been claimed by Turkish nationalists, and the Greek mainland was for centuries subsumed entirely by the Ottoman Empire, the modern Hellenic Republic only emerging from the dreamless sleep of Islamic rule in 1830.
At present, Turkey is also the only thing separating Greece (and thus Europe) from the territory of the Islamic State with which it has a rather dubious relationship. Routes through the country are almost always chosen by Western-born terrorists travelling to join ISIS, and local authorities have been notably slack in preventing this. Of course, if there are ISIS cells coming into Europe via Turkey, their footprints will first depress Hellenic soil.
The Greek military, for its part, is large by southern-European standards but still considerably weaker than the armed forces of Turkey, Egypt or Saudi Arabia. Westward from Greece, the first war-capable nation-state is Germany. Europe at its weakest thus shares a border with Islam at its strongest.
History is known to have a gift for poetic irony. As Greece, Rome and Jerusalem are the fountains of our civilisation, it would appear both apocalyptic and appropriate that anti-Western Muslims are freely landing in Italy, crossing into Greece, and plotting the downfall of the Jewish State.