Historic day

Yesterday was an historic one for Europe. In a symbol-rich ceremony, the EU accession treaty for the 10 new members was signed at the Stoa of Attalos at the foot of the Acropolis. This is not only the biggest wave of expansion in the history of the EEC and the EU, but also an enlargement with important implications for Greece and Europe in general. As regards Greece, the paramount element of this enlargement is the entry of Cyprus, an event that marks a decisive and irreversible step toward the national goal of a peaceful reunification of the Mediterranean island within a European framework. As concerns Europe, no one can possibly question that the main aspect of this expansion is the reunification of the old continent through the transcendence of the East-West divide that marked the 20th century. No one should underestimate the size of this challenge. It will take a titanic effort to glue this mixed group of 25 and prospectively 30 and 35 members together into a homogeneous whole. The deep divisions within the bloc that were exposed during the US-led war on Iraq were only a foretaste of the acute problems that will threaten the foundations of the European Union if the member states fail to sideline their nationalist calculations for the sake of a common European voice. Greeks, in particular, must finally realize the magnitude of this expansion. So far, our attention and efforts have been confined to the fundamental issue of Cyprus’s membership. That goal has been achieved, but it has deflected our focus from the looming challenges posed by a 25-member Europe. This will be a bigger Europe. But it will also be an economically weaker one, as it will take in less well-off states. European solidarity will be diluted as fewer funds will be shared out among more, and poorer, countries. At the same time, it will be a more competitive Europe, as the low development level of the new members gives them a price advantage. Greece has to maintain its position in the new Europe. Despite being an EEC and EU member for 20 years, we have never managed to escape the bottom of the list. Every wave of enlargement has seen Greece stuck in lowest place among the 10, 12 or 15 members. Greece cannot afford to relax.