Greeks want classic outline of democracy in EU Constitution

Greece said yesterday that it wants a classical definition of democracy by ancient historian Thucydides reinstated into the draft of the EU’s first-ever Constitution after it was dropped at the last minute. The European Union’s Irish presidency this week omitted the quotation from a newly revised version of the preamble to the historic charter, after objections from a number of EU countries. But the Greek government said it aimed to get the Thucydides line reinstated when EU leaders meet tomorrow and Friday in a final bid to find agreement on the Constitution after two years of negotiations. «The debate is still open and we would like to see the words appear (in the final version),» Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos said. He said the words, in Thucydides’ history of the start of the Peloponnesian War in 431 BC, were not just part of Greece’s national heritage but also «a pertinent definition of democracy.» The original preamble of the text agreed to by an EU convention opened with the words: «Our Constitution… is called a democracy because power is in the hands not of a minority but of the greatest number.» At a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday, the government of EU newcomer Cyprus lined up behind Greece in objecting to the omission of the words by Thucydides, diplomats said. But an Irish diplomat said that several EU members had objected that the words «suggest the EU is a union of peoples rather than a union of nation states.» «Besides, not everyone agreed that the version of the Thucydides quotation was the best translation,» he added. Thucydides put the words into the mouth of the great Athenian leader Pericles, who presided over the development of democratic government and led his country in the early stages of the war, but died of plague in 428 BC. (AFP)