Do Small Powers Retrench?

Greece in the Western Balkans during the Era of syriza Governance

In: Southeastern Europe
Ritsa PanagiotouSenior Research Fellow, Centre of Planning and Economic Research (KEPE), Athens, Greece,

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Nikolaos TzifakisAssociate Professor, Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of the Peloponnese, Corinth, Greece,

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This article analyses and develops the rationale behind the foreign policy of the syriza-led government towards the Western Balkans. It challenges the prevalent view in the academic literature that there was continuity between policies of the syriza government and its predecessors. By analysing the track record of Greek foreign policy towards the region from 2009 to 2019, it argues that from mid-2016 onwards syriza implemented a major policy shift and adopted a policy of retrenchment. This change was a response to the country’s diminished economic and diplomatic power and influence in the region, as well as a reaction to the widening gap between Greek and Turkish capabilities. The adjustment of Greek foreign policy to the realities of the protracted economic crisis demonstrates that the theory of MacDonald and Parent concerning the policies followed by great powers in acute economic decline may also be applied to the study of policies followed by small powers in decline.

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