The Greek government presented the European Commission last Tuesday with its plan for utilizing the cheap loans and funds from the coronavirus recovery package. It was the same day that Germany and France submitted their blueprints, a symbolic move obviously intended to send a message of European unity.
When it comes to Europe, there are many different types of truth and reality. There’s obviously a lot of complaining and criticism, depending on the circumstances, but there is also the persistent skepticism of the left- and right-wing fringes. As a notion, the European Union is indisputably a wonderful vision, even though its practical implementation is fraught with imperfections, contradictions, indecision and red tape. When it comes to Greece, however, accession was the best thing that could have happened to the country.
Recent criticism has been focused on the European Commission’s delays and oversights with regard to the coronavirus vaccination program. It has also been accused of not pumping enough money into the Next Generation EU recovery instrument, especially compared with Washington, which has committed 5-6 trillion dollars for the post-pandemic recovery. One response to this criticism is that both the collective ordering, supply and distribution of vaccines and the creation of a recovery fund constitute very important steps toward the much-coveted deepening of the Union. After all, it is not hard to imagine the terrible problems any Greek government would have faced if it had to organize and bankroll the entire vaccination process on its own.
Another point worth making is that much of the delays and red tape in Brussels is due to the fact that the real power lies with the EU’s member-states, the partners. They’re the ones calling the shots, they’re the ones to accept or reject proposals and, depending on their particularities and interests, they are also responsible for bringing the unanimity required, making every decision a lengthy and complicated process. The authority of the governments is essentially represented by the European Council, which is headed by Charles Michel and which is responsible for keeping the European Commission, headed by Ursula von der Leyen, in check. It was this matter of protocol that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took advantage of during the top officials’ recent visit to Ankara, forcing von der Leyen to take a seat on the sofa.
Objectively, the EU’s biggest problem, the one that is responsible for it not always inspiring the international respect it deserves, is the absence of a common foreign and defense policy. China, Russia and the USA tend to dismiss it as a minor player, something that is more than apparent in the current environment of fluidity and insecurity. For Greeks, this is also apparent in how Turkey treats Europe. It is a serious handicap that can only be remedied with a common foreign and defense policy that would also signal the completion of the Union.
Overall and despite such shortcomings, however, the EU is nothing but a boon for Greece.