Germany’s Position on the Greek-Turkish Dispute: Intergovernmental Theory vs. Neofunctionalism

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The article identifies Germany’s position on the Greek-Turkish dispute in the Aegean Sea from the point of the intergovernmentalist and neofunctionalist theories. The relevance of the research topic is due to the constantly emerging contradictions between Turkey and Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as the need for the third parties to intervene in this dispute. The subject of the study is the German position, which is explained by the desire of the country to become a mediator. In addition, in European historiography on the integration there is an ongoing debate as to whether countries are guided in their foreign policy decisions by a common European set of norms, principles and values, or still by their own national interests. The aim of the study is to identify the principles that Germany follows in determining the political vector of its foreign policy, using the example of the dispute between Turkey and Greece in the Aegean Sea, and correlate them with the theories of intergovernmentalism and neofunctionalism. The research methods are comparative analysis for defining the correlation of the postulates and selected theories with the practical steps taken by Germany to resolve the Greek-Turkish dispute, as well as the institutional method, which allows determining the role and place of the state in the system of pan-European decision-making. The results of the study are presented in the form of a correlation of the main criteria of the theories of intergovernmentalism and neofunctionalism with the identified practical steps of Germany to resolve the dispute between Turkey and Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean. The conclusion identifies Germany’s commitment to one of the two theories for each of the selected criteria.

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Table 1. Comparative analysis of the positions of Turkey and Greece on the key points of the dispute in the Aegean Sea


Position of Turkey

Position of Greece

The continental shelf


1. Objection to the islands being an extension of Anatolia.

2. Rejection of the principle of equidistance.

3. The delimitation agreement.

4. The achievement of an equal result in the use of the continental shelf by both States

1. In the absence of an agreement between the neighboring countries, the dispute should be settled along the middle line between the Greek islands of the East Aegean and the Turkish coast.

2. The Greek islands are a direct extension of Anatolia

Territorial waters


Maintaining a limit of 6 miles of territorial waters (having 6 miles, Greece controls almost half of the Aegean Sea, 43.68 % according to the Turkey information, while Turkey receives only 7.5 %, leaving the open sea-about 49 %)

1. Claims a limit of 12 miles of territorial waters (does not want to consult with Turkey on this issue, referring to the Convention on the Law of the Sea).

2. The right to an extension cannot be qualified by special circumstances limiting this right

National airspace


Preventing Greek expansion in the airspace, in order to prevent the strengthening of Greek influence in the Aegean Sea as a whole

Claims for 10 miles of airspace, which is not only due to the need for air navigation and air police control over Greek territorial waters, but also because Turkey did not object to this provision (estoppel)

Demilitarized status of the eastern Aegean islands

1. Against the militarization of the Greek islands of Lemnos and Samothrace, since both Turkey and Greece are members of NATO, therefore, this region does not require excessive weapons in order to strengthen national security.

2. The demilitarization of the 14 Greek Dodecanese islands is mandatory, as they are too close to Turkey, which threatens its national security

 1. Support for the militarization of the islands of Lemnos and Samothrace, since the Montreux Convention of 1936 replaced the Lausanne Convention of 1923.

2. The militarization of the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos and Ikaria (Ikaria) is necessary for several reasons:

¾   Turkey’s “incursions” and the ongoing “occupation” of Cyprus;

¾   casus belli (i.e. “Turkish military threat”) looming over the Aegean Sea;

¾   formation 4th Turkish Army based in Izmir;

¾   presence in this region has a large flotilla of Turkish landing crafts

Source: compiled by the author based on the materials of the articles (Heraclides, 2010; Gonenc & Durmaz, 2020; Yildiz, 2020).


Table 2. Comparative analysis of the key postulates of intergovernmentalism and neofunctionalism



Intergovernmental theory

Basic principles

Democratic pluralism, functionalism

Liberal institutionalism and other integration theories

Main actor

Supranational institutions

National States participating in integration

The state

Conceptualization of the state as an arena in which public actors act to realize common interests

States voluntarily enter into alliances, forming interdependence, but retain national interest and sovereignty

International system

Voluntary interaction of subjects to achieve mutually beneficial integration conditions

International cooperation as a product of national preferences of Liberal democracies, taking into account their interests

Integration process

Through progressive integration (from the economic to the political spheres), to achieve serious success at all levels, including consolidating efforts in security issues

Consolidation of efforts only in basic issues, for example, economic, political and security, it is impossible to achieve success, because it affects national interests

Source: compiled by the author based on the materials of the articles (Hooghe & Marks, 2009; Hooghe et al., 2019; Haas 2004).

About the authors

Natalia Viktorovna Ivkina

RUDN University

Author for correspondence.
ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8654-7629
Moscow, Russian Federation

PhD in History, Associate Professor, Department of Theory and History of International Relations


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