A bittersweet taste

The EU summit which opens in Thessaloniki today will mark the successful completion of Greece’s presidency which, although overshadowed by the Iraq crisis, saw two major developments: The addition of 10 new members to the bloc, including Cyprus, and the drafting of a European constitution which could turn a predominately economic union into a political one. Despite the fanfare on the government side, some facts offer little comfort. First, the draft constitution was effectively approved overnight by a backstage alliance between Europe’s premier league nations, namely Germany, France and Britain. Furthermore, there are reservations whether the compromise thrashed out among the informal troika takes into account Greek sensitivities. On the burning issue of the Common Agricultural Policy, France succumbed to pressure from Germany, which wants to see Community funds go to the new Eastern European members. This means that they will be removed from the Mediterranean south. At the institutional level, former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing’s blueprint certifies the three powers as the top dogs inside the Union. This downgrades Greece’s preferred federal structure, which would work to the advantage of smaller states. Essentially, the draft constitution highlights the leading status of the Franco-German axis, leaving the door open for its potential transformation into a triangle when, and if, Britain wants to join. As regards the crucial issue of a common European defense structure, the Franco-German plans do not foresee the protection of the common borders but the deployment of a European force on foreign peacekeeping missions. All this does not undo the importance of the European constitution. But they underscore the self-evident: European integration, and hence the future shape of Europe, is increasingly beyond Greece’s control.

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