OPINION

Defeated expectations

The year 2002 was one of hopes and expectations: Greece entered the eurozone and the single European currency, the euro, replaced the drachma. However, the country’s entry into the hard core of the European Union did not bring any immediate benefits to the citizens’ everyday lives. As a result, a year after the launch of the euro – and if opinion polls provide an accurate representation of the real picture – 68 percent of the local population look back nostalgically on the days of the drachma. Problems were expected during the adaption period in all eurozone member countries and, indeed, so there were. On the other hand, local consumers and the country in general have yet to feel any benefit from Greece’s membership in the club of the EU’s wealthiest states because convergence has been virtual and Greece still holds a subordinate role in European developments. As an architect of the «new Greece,» Prime Minister Costas Simitis may have a different view of reality, but he has scarcely any followers. 2002 also saw a political decision at the Copenhagen summit on the Republic of Cyprus’s entry into the EU. According to Simitis, however, it left a gap. Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and Turkey’s traditional bureaucracy obstructed the settlement of the Cyprus problem on the basis of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s blueprint. However, Simitis’s disappointment on this issue was essentially in contrast to the relief of the overwhelming majority of Greek Cypriots and the citizens of the so called «national center» (Greece) who aren’t drawn by the same creative visions as the Greek prime minister and are still skeptical of the idea that Cyprus can suddenly move into the center of Europe and function on the Swiss model. Over the last few months, 2002 was also marked by expectations of political developments in Turkey, as the neo-Islamic party of Recep Tayyip Erdogan won a landslide victory, eliminating the former Turkish parties which voiced the country’s traditional establishments. But this hope was soon dashed and about two weeks ago, at a top-level meeting in Ankara, Turkey’s traditional establishment fully restored Denktash’s status as the sole negotiator on the Cyprus issue. Now, hopes are that the demonstrators in the occupied part of the island will overthrow Denktash’s rule. But such a prospect seems a far cry from reality. 2002 comes to a close with the expansion of the EU and the new year will begin with the prospect of a new war launched by a US-led coalition – which also includes Turkey – against Iraq. US President George W. Bush’s military initiative will unquestionably determine the international arena. At the same time, Greece will be in charge of the EU’s rotating presidency for six months in an attempt to shape a policy for the Community.