OPINION

One step back, two forward

The European rift caused by the Iraq war and the divisions spawned by the attempt to draw up an EU constitution, made this a difficult conjuncture for the Greek presidency. Athens’s performance to date has been a success, notwithstanding the fact that the role of the president is by nature limited. The signing ceremony for the EU’s enlargement was an important event on its own but, politically speaking, Greece’s most essential contribution was that it proved flexible enough to underscore the common denominators between the various states. The history of the EU is one of antitheses, syntheses, crises and resolutions. It could not have been different, given the nature of the experiment. The Old Continent has for centuries been a theater of bloody conflict, but was also the birthplace of the nation state. This accumulated historical experience functions as a solid foundation for a slow but steady process of integration. No doubt the EU still has a long way to go before it can play an international role due to its size and weight. But there is also the other side of the coin. Despite troubles in finding a common denominator on Iraq, all the EU peers still acknowledged the need for closer political union. To be sure, not everybody understands this in the same way. However, despite their differences, a common identity and a sense of shared destiny has been molded on the continent. This is a precious achievement, for it functions as a stabilizer to the unification process – an incremental process which has occasionally faltered, and one that requires a high degree of consensus. A Europe of 25 members will be faced with additional problems given that the newcomers will need time to catch up with older members and adopt the mentality of the Community. For this reason, it seems likely that the integration will necessitate the emergence of a multispeed Europe.