CULTURE

A long and often winding road

Next Wednesday, European notables present and past will descend on Athens to celebrate a genuine milestone: the expansion of European Union membership by a whopping 40 percent, from 15 to 25 members, from next year. It is an extraordinarily ambitious undertaking as well as a striking diplomatic accomplishment, giving the EU – which has had very good history but a very bad year (so far) – something to toast when the champagne corks pop. When considering today’s Europhile Greek leadership, gamely trying to keep the pieces from flying apart during this, its first rotating presidency for a decade, it is easy to believe that EU membership was always a part of Greek destiny. Even the founding document, the Treaty of Rome, was signed (quite by chance) on Greece’s national day, March 25, in 1957. Newly released documents detailing the push into Europe show that Greece has indeed always aimed high – but also that getting there (wherever «there» currently is) required gritty persistence and occasional risks to make it happen. The fact that Greece achieved membership in 1981, just seven years after the fall of the junta and five years before fellow European aspirants Spain and Portugal, indicates just how successful that effort was, led by a focused diplomatic corps that provided solidity to the shifting domestic political sands. Five hundred pages of diplomatic dispatches and commentary may not make for riveting bedtime reading, but «The Participation of Greece in the Process Towards European Integration, Volume One: The Crucial Twenty Years 1948-1968» does unfold a drama of sorts, key stages in arguably Greece’s single biggest postwar achievement – moving from poverty and peripheralization to full EU (and now eurozone) membership. These dispatches and memorandums (most in English, some in French) will provide essential raw material for researchers, diplomats and journalists seeking background information on a crucial era. An early foot in the door As Vyron Theodoropoulos rightly notes in one of the five introductory essays, 1948 is not an arbitrary starting point. It marks the true beginning of the postwar period, when both transatlantic links and intra-European ties began to solidify with the West European Union and the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) being set up, the latter as a channel for distributing US aid from the Marshall Plan. With a civil war still raging, Greek diplomacy was already gearing up to make the case that Greece belonged in Europe, for all the skepticism this aroused then and later. The following year, the first Pan-European political intergovernmental organization was created, the Council of Europe, which Greece (and Turkey) soon joined – but not as founding members. This nascent European experiment was full of false starts as well as progress, including early proposals for a European passport and army – ideas taken up again only recently. Greece wanted in on all these discussions, and threw well-timed diplomatic tantrums when it was left out. And if «onward toward Europe» was an unofficial refrain, especially with Constantine Karamanlis at the helm from October 1955, the question «which Europe?» soon emerged. The establishment of the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1957 with only six original members, led to a second option, the European Free Trade Association, created in 1959 as a sort of «lesser Europe,» focused on trade and having no higher political objectives. But Greece shunned this alternative in favor of the longer-term, and certainly riskier, political objective of full EEC membership. Celebration and hangover If one event stands out, it is undoubtedly Greece’s association agreement with the EEC, signed (after two years of tough negotiations) in July 1961, through the Treaty of Athens, which entered into force late in 1962. This agreement set lengthy (up to 22 years) transitional arrangements for abolition of intra-European tariffs, Greek adoption of the EEC common external tariff, harmonization of Greek with European agriculture, and a financial protocol allowing for European loans to Greece. Far more importantly, the agreement was a conscious and deliberate staging post for eventual Greek membership in the EEC/EU. This was not just a grandiose Greek interpretation of its terms, but an explicitly stated formula. Another, overlooked, aspect was its importance for Europe; it was the EEC’s first ever international treaty, and gave it some much-needed international legitimacy as a legal entity. Greece was also of value to Europe at the time, not just vice versa. But the road from that point got rocky. One problem was that Europe itself was a moving target; it began setting out the Common Agricultural Policy at the same time, from which Greece (despite its protestations) was excluded. Far worse was Greece’s well-known propensity to short-circuit its own successes – it soon descended into turbulence that led to Karamanlis’s temporary departure from political life (1963), revolving-door governments, instability, and finally the military takeover of April 1967, which forced a suspension of the agreement. Yet these events are only indirectly touched on in this volume, and the final years of the collection tail off (there’s only one document from 1966, three from 1967 and none from 1968, despite the subtitle). This pattern also had a later parallel: Soon after Greece finally joined the EEC in 1981, PASOK took office with Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou vocally opposing membership. Fitting a puzzle The dispatches reflect the usual exaggerated decorum (P. Philon: «M. Couve de Murville listened to these thoughts with great interest and told me unreservedly that he agrees fully with them»), but can be hard-boiled as well (E. Averoff: «Please take every possible action to… refute the view advanced there by the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs»). There are also some surprisingly bold assumptions; Karamanlis claims at one point (in an internal note) that «many of the problems that the country faces because of the non-friendly regimes of its neighboring countries will be solved immediately after its association with the Community.» Throughout, Greece’s special situation – peripheral, developing, small – is shrewdly employed by its representatives to gain diplomatic advantage and speed up membership. Averoff in particular comes across as a driver of hard bargains, which may come as a surprise to those who better remember him as an aging, ineffectual opposition leader in the 1980s. The volume includes a useful chronology and lengthy biographical notes of key figures of the era, both Greek and foreign, such as Paul-Henri Spaak, Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet. There is even a brief tidbit on British policy passed on by one Ambassador Giorgos Seferiadis, who in his «other» profession was Nobel Peace Prize-winning poet George Seferis. This is the first of three volumes that will eventually cover Greece and Europe up to the present, including the Karamanlis push for membership in the 1970s, the subsequent turbulent relations of the 1980s, to the constructive relationship of the past decade.