The Athens summit

The signing of the EU accession agreement by the 10 new members in Athens on Wednesday, a ceremony that will be combined with an informal European Council and a European summit on the following day, is an event that took pains to organize here in Greece. Denmark, where the European Union’s historic expansion was agreed upon, also pushed to have the accession treaty signed on its territory. Furthermore, despite its triumphant character, this event is no meaningless hoopla. Apart from the paramount significance of Cyprus’s accession – a heavily symbolic event which can by itself provide a strong political momentum – this will be one of the very few times that Greece has the opportunity to host a gathering of so many senior officials. Forty-one state and organization leaders are expected here – and this at a period when the tiff between the pro-Europeans and the Atlanticists, as well as the opposition to the US-led war on Iraq, are bound to become the subject of informal bilateral and multilateral meetings. Even though some of the senior visitors backed Washington’s military drive against Iraq, the meeting is still about Europe’s future. It also brings together Europe’s leading independent voices – the leaders who stood for our European values and our humanistic feelings. At the center of the discussion will be the issue of a united Europe which, in the eyes of most Greeks, embodies the hope of a more balanced West and of a stable peace in the Balkans. The organizers, and those who will participate in the anti-war protest rallies that have been called to mark the occasion of the ceremony, should keep all this in mind. Democratic and legitimate as the demonstration of public sentiment may be, we have to make sure that the protests will be peaceful, without violent episodes that would tarnish the image of this significant political assembly. Any expression of political opposition can be carried out with symbolic power and without any acts of violence. These would only taint the demonstrations and, in fact, shadow a European policy that the protesters are not opposed to, but actually cherish.