Taking the initiative for a unified Europe

Our French friends were virtually resolute about one thing ahead of the most recent European Union summit in Brussels, as were the Germans, albeit in more subtle fashion: If we are to have a European Constitution which is not functional, then it is better that we do not have one at all. At the time, this stance appeared as something of a threat, a bit like a bargaining chip. Now, however, with the European Union having suffered one of the most significant defeats in its history – and with this, its aims for political integration – we recall aspects of these pre-summit debates which are even more forward-looking as regards the future of the EU. The two pivotal member states of the Union, France and Germany, have in any case openly declared their intention not merely to tighten their already close ties but also to develop forms of cooperation never before seen in recent history. This plan begins with cooperation of MPs from both countries in their respective parliaments, goes on to include their common representation in international institutions, and culminates in the establishment of a common Parliament – and even a common government if all these earlier stages of their joint plan are completed as planned. The representation of Germany at the last EU summit by French President Jacques Chirac was a manifestation of the will of both countries to progress at greater speed and with bolder steps. In any case, France and Germany – both of which this year have suffered two blows from new and old members of the Union, in relation to the war in Iraq and, more recently, the constitution – do not hesitate to talk openly about ad hoc partnerships and a multi-speed Europe. This may seem like a threat, once again, but it is not at all unlikely that we will very soon see certain decisions made which, on the one hand, will shake the foundations of the Union, but on the other hand will give impetus to a mechanism which currently appears to be «stuck.» And when this happens, Athens will be expected to make certain choices. The debate is hardly a new one and the levels on which political integration is lagging are many. Greece’s participation in the Schengen treaty presaged the country’s intentions, but our non-participation in the failed «initiative of the four» shows that we do not want to, or rather that we dare not, cross certain limits. It appears that France and Germany are counting on us to a great extent and are interested in what our intentions are for the future. Both main political parties in our country have clearly expressed their support for our European orientation at key moments. Now they must prove that they are able to handle complicated situations which transcend local and purely practical interests.