OPINION

The Europe card

As the ongoing European Union summit in Copenhagen is dealing with the final phase of Cyprus’s membership to the Union and Turkish diplomats face an EU which is reluctant to meet their excessive demands, we should not forget that the Cyprus issue escaped stagnation only because Greek and Greek-Cypriot officials played the card of Europe and of the island’s European course. By becoming a member of the enlarged European Union, the bitterly divided island will benefit from the long-term impact of European institutions as the bloc steers a course toward deeper political integration by means of consolidating a set of democratic rights, economic freedoms and social dignity. There was probably no other way of pulling the Cyprus issue from the mire of an unacceptable status quo while simultaneously giving Greece the chance to bargain with Turkey on purely European grounds. The European card which now seems to be yielding fruit in the Cyprus dispute has already helped the country in many other areas, from bolstering the Greek economy and modernizing its infrastructure to upgrading our democracy and bringing it in line with the more advanced democratic states. Whether this concerns aspects where western European states are more advanced, or merely the fact that a greater political union – even at an embryonic stage – possesses more leverage than a single state, there is no doubt that Greece owes its transformation to its timely participation in the process of European integration. The fruits of this European course – without overlooking the necessary sacrifices and the pressure for adaptation – suggest our future course both in negotiations on the Cyprus issue (which should focus on adapting the UN blueprint to the EU’s acquis communautaire) or to issues of internal institutional and economic restructuring, where the EU promotes a model of stronger societies that furnish greater respect for the citizen. Greece, of course, would enjoy a more successful and respectable position had its European position been coupled with a systematic Balkan policy enabling it to come across not only as the EU’s sole Balkan state but also as the unquestioned leader of the Balkan peninsula. Although major opportunities have been wasted in the past, realizing the failures could help Greece regain some of the lost ground.