OPINION

With an eye fixed on the EU

Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis has never kept secret his commitment to the idea of a united Europe, but has always refrained from anything that could upset Washington. As a result, Simitis’s caustic rhetoric about the United States recently caused a stir. Some contrast his stance with the pro-American image of Foreign Minister George Papandreou. Relations between the two men have been seriously shaken, as indicated by leaks as well as by the exclusion of Papandreou’s aides from the Brussels spring summit. Clearly, Maximos Mansion hopes that the anti-war atmosphere will undermine the popularity of the aspirant prime minister – a hope, however, that is not borne out by the recent Metron Analysis poll. However, this does not suffice to explain Simitis’s pointed statements. People in the know claim that the Greek premier spoke as a presidential candidate for the European Commission or the Council, if such post is finally established. It is not a coincidence that Simitis has recently spearheaded foreign policymaking on big European issues, effectively sidelining his minister on foreign affairs. Developments inside the EU seem to favor Simitis’s informal candidacy, and this is not only because Jose-Maria Aznar is essentially a spent force. Paris and Berlin have a vital interest in backing a political figure who will follow their line without provoking the Atlanticists. Simitis meets these criteria. In addition, he has long experience as a premier, he comes from a medium-sized country and has a good name in all European capitals. Needless to say, if Costas Simitis finally takes the path to Brussels, this will have a decisive effect on domestic political developments.