No more excuses

Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s six-month stint as head of the rotating presidency of the European Union will finally be over next week after the EU summit in Halkidiki. There, despite differences in opinion and the battles waged by every European leader to promote national interests, enough common ground will no doubt be found so that everyone will affirm their faith in the future of an enlarged Union. These six-monthly summits in rotating member states have for some years been an expression of a new kind of provincialism that has placed an extremely heavy burden on national budgets. Moreover, the demonstrations usually held against EU policymakers make every summit a real nightmare for the security forces of the host country. Apart from declarations, the leaders of Europe can really offer nothing more substantial, since they are incapable of dealing with the problem of unemployment – something that has vanished from their vocabulary and replaced by the word employment – or of making the EU a force on the international scene. The USA is the country that sets the tone and direction of international developments. It is, of course, unfair to judge the EU by its weaknesses. Irrespective of the goals and ambitions of its leaders, its structural deficiencies, adverse circumstances and conflicting domestic interests make it what it really is and not what European citizens might imagine or desire it to be. However, it might be time to be done with celebrations. At a time of austerity, these are little more than a provocation, particularly when no one believes that prosperity is on the way, despite efforts via the media to trumpet «achievements.» After the summit is over next Saturday, time will also be up for Simitis, who will now be free of his commitments to the EU presidency and able to take the initiatives he has promised in order to deal with domestic problems. A complete reshuffle appears unlikely, mainly because within the government camp there are no worthy forces that can extricate the country from the quagmire that is government policy. During the seven years he has governed the country, Simitis has exhausted all reserves, while some of the government’s more prominent members have been politically discredited, so effectively that there are no possibilities for any real renewal of the government. Thoughts of premature elections or of replacing Simitis before the end of his term in the spring of 2004 are even more far-fetched. The question thus, is what initiatives are left for the prime minister to take. At any rate, he will not be able to make any more excuses.

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