A Greece developed economically, more democratic politically, more modern and tolerant socially and – probably most importantly – more powerful and secure. This is European Greece.
During the 40 years since the country’s accession to what was then the European Economic Community – the accession agreement was signed on May 28, 1979, at Zappeion Hall and came into effect on January 1, 1981 – a lot happened. There was progress in many sectors. Projects large and small that changed the country’s image and improved the daily lives of Greek citizens.
Politically, there was a maturation. Typical of this evolution was the coming to power, in 1981, of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), with its slogans “EEC and NATO – the same syndicate” and “No to the EEC of monopolies” and its transformation into a social democratic party that also recognized the value of a united Europe and took advantage of the country’s participation in it. Similarly, just over 33 years later, the election of radical SYRIZA, with slogans such as “Go back, Madam Merkel” and promises to tear up the austerity programs signed under pressure from the creditors, and its transformation into a center-left party that did not leave the euro but dutifully applied the austerity agreements and is now trying to join the European social democrat family.
And, of course, beyond political parties and ideologies, a cool, mature observer of recent Greek history has to credit Konstantinos Karamanlis, who had the vision, daring and decisiveness needed to overcome opposition and have Greece join the European family on an equal footing.
On Sunday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu begins his visit to Thrace and Athens. Two weeks later, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are expected to meet during the NATO summit.
Confrontations, the tough and occasionally insulting rhetoric of high-ranking Turkish officials, continued tension, last year’s “hot summer” in the Aegean Sea – all these are the current “normal” in Greek-Turkish relations.
Let the increasingly shrinking contingent that opposed Greece’s European accession reflect on how this “normality” could have evolved if our country were not an EU member.
As an equal member of the Union, besides the constant progress and democratic stability, Greece feels its security has been enhanced. This security was one of Karamanlis’ main objectives, and he achieved it.
When Greece joined the EEC, governments and pundits observed that beyond the subsidies and economic support the other members would offer Greece, they would have to support it in its bilateral conflicts with Turkey, as well as on the Cyprus issue. And that is what’s happening.
Of course, as members of the European family, we are bound to have differences, express complaints and be dissatisfied with some decisions made by our partners. The fact remains that the strategic decision to join this politically and economically powerful family has changed the facts on the ground. And this has forced third parties to alter any potential designs they might have as the cost of going ahead and implementing them has increased immensely.
On the 40th anniversary of our participation in Europe, we are not only more prosperous and politically mature, we are diplomatically more powerful and, ultimately, more secure.