Delusions of greatness

The joint letter signed by five members and three future members of the European Union backing the United States on the Iraq crisis caught the Greek presidency unaware and raised serious concerns among senior EU officials. This was an artless move, given that the EU is seeking to hammer out a common foreign policy. Most crucially, it expressed clear distrust in the Franco-German axis, the EU powerhouse, and underscored that the US can still use Britain to stir up trouble inside Europe, even when the EU is seeking to avoid war. The incident illustrated that the EU still faces a long and tough road ahead on its way to political integration. It also shows that the Franco-German axis will have to try hard to iron out reservations and reactions. Aside from its international fallout, the incident must also teach Greece a lesson. The joint letter took the Greek presidency by surprise, as none of the eight European leaders who signed had previously informed Athens. (The fact that Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis was informed by his Hungarian counterpart in a meeting late Wednesday by no means constitutes a formal briefing.) In that sense, the government was right not to keep its surprise a secret, while Simitis himself criticized the pro-US letter saying that it «does not contribute to a common position on the issue.» This honest reaction, however, does not offset the fact that the eight governments left the Greek presidency in the dark despite the fact that Simitis had contacted his British and Italian counterparts on Wednesday. It was once again shown that when issues of major importance, such as international relations, are at stake, governments do not stick to EU protocol but rather do what best serves their national interests. In taking their decisions they don’t hesitate to bypass Greece – which shows that our country ranks low in the power hierarchy. The government should realize this in the wake of yesterday’s incident. Besides, it is something its citizens are already aware of. The government’s boasts about being at the head of the EU and its pompous announcements betray an delusion of greatness and are somewhat ridiculous. The government should instead abandon its elevated tone and get its feet back on the ground, seeing the presidency for what it is: a largely procedural office which, despite its importance, falls well short of turning a weak peer into a global player.

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