EU enlargement challenges Greece

The accession of 10 more countries to the European Union will reduce the average per capita GDP (estimated according to purchasing power) by 13.5 percent, also reducing the gap between Greece and the European Union average. Greece, it is true, is rich in comparison with most of the candidate states lining up for the next wave of EU enlargement. Even countries in Central Europe such as the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovenia still have a long way to go before being on a par with us. But these countries won’t be lying idle, and their proximity to Germany, and even France and Italy, will facilitate real, productive and profitable investments. In other words, Greece will not only be struggling to keep up with the more developed member states but will also face competition from new members that will be attracting investment, absorbing EU resources and claiming their share of the enlarged European market. «Enlargement offers Europe a new dynamic and one must bear the bigger picture in mind,» said Deputy Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis, who is responsible for preparing Greece’s presidency of the rotating EU presidency next year. Greece has much to gain by strengthening links with the 10 new countries, he added, obviously with the accession of Cyprus in mind. Once this expansion has been achieved, Greece’s GDP per capita will reach 75 percent of the European average; anything above this is considered true convergence. «Our attention should be focused on weaker areas as well as on our capacity to absorb resources from special activities to improve Europe’s competitiveness,» added Yiannitsis. Given the political benefits, Greece’s participation in the funding package, now being debated at a high level within the EU, will be judged according to several factors. One is related to the size of the total European domestic product. Satisfactory growth means more available resources and the possibility of more generous handouts. During the first half of 2003, just a few months before the enlargement scheduled for 2004, Greece will have an opportunity to strengthen its hand during negotiations that will be intensifying at higher levels. The major issues a year from now will be resources for enlargement and the distribution of these funds, the redefinition of regulations for the structural funds, the review of the Common Agricultural Policy and of the new treaty on Europe’s political organization. Given that Germany and France will have new governments after the elections of the next few months, Greece will have to exercise a very good presidency indeed. Greece will also be seeking ways to include Balkan and Middle Eastern developments and creating a joint framework for dealing with immigration on the agenda for the EU summit in Thessaloniki in June 2003. Yiannitsis realizes, however, that the most difficult issue of all will be convening the Intergovernmental Conference, including the 10 candidate member states, to examine the treaty on the framework for a larger but still viable Europe. – The Embassy of Luxembourg, in cooperation with the Hellenic Center for European Studies (EKEM) and the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP) is hosting a lecture on «Europe – Our Natural Area.» The lecture will be delivered by Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker and the minister of state and finance of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. At the Old Parliament building.

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