OPINION

EU’s Gordian knots

If the EU summit in Halkidiki goes according to schedule, the Greek presidency of the 15-nation bloc should go down as one of the most significant in the Union’s recent history. The signing of the EU’s enlargement treaty was, no doubt, the most prominent event, but Greece’s contribution to this event was limited to the organizational level. Politically speaking, Athens’s most essential contribution was its handling of intra-European rifts caused by the war in Iraq. As far as its role would permit, Greece showed the flexibility needed to promote a common platform for all states. In the upcoming Halkidiki summit meeting, the 15 European leaders will be called upon to take decisions on current issues that feature on the agenda. In addition, they will discuss the European Convention’s proposals for a new constitution. Any final decisions will be taken during the intergovernmental conference next year. But the Halkidiki summit will be the first forum to hear the intense disagreements between the EU peers. The EU is at a crucial crossroads, but this is not unprecedented. This time, however, the integration process has brought EU leaders face to face with concrete issues. It has become obvious that the continental experiment cannot continue without giving some specific answers that will give it a new impetus. The Iraq war and the transatlantic rift brought to surface problems which Europe’s leaders have long evaded. In that sense, the internal rupture is a challenge for solutions. The fact that Europeans have hammered out a common identity and a sense of common destination is a precious asset – a defense mechanism that helps stabilize the unification process. But it will take political will to turn it into a springboard for a forward leap. No doubt, European integration is an incremental process which can only move on the basis of consensus. On the other hand, Europe has reached a point where it must cut some Gordian knots to move forward. The EU is made up of nation states – a reality that renders the US pattern inapplicable. At this moment, the main priority is not to decide on the EU’s federal structure. Rather, it is to establish a common foreign and defense policy and a single voice at the international level. Aside from that, there is enough room for tough bargaining about the weight of votes and the distribution of power inside the Union.