OPINION

A new era

The new year will be indelibly sealed by the beginning of the greatest monetary integration in human history. The degree of success of this venture will determine the future of Europe. The close interdependence between the economic fate of the European states brought about by the single currency and EMU constitutes an unprecedented experiment and challenge. This wager will eventually also determine Europe’s political future. Driven by technocratic and bureaucratic conceptions of history, many see the launch of the common currency as the crowning of a common effort and the accomplishment of the ultimate goal of European integration. Justified as this satisfaction may be over introducing into circulation the euro, marking the fulfillment of a strategically important goal, it would be a grave error if we should now fail to make the effort needed in order to exploit this success in two fundamental directions. The first need is to expand the euro’s economic basis with a gradual and genuine convergence between the European economies; this requires an extraordinary effort, particularly from lagging countries such as Greece. The second is to systematically transform economic integration into a political one that will shape a new vision for 21st-century Europe that will inspire citizens. But these changes presuppose that the European political elite will live up to current expectations, leaving behind the sometimes mean-spirited mentality shaped by petty nationalistic objectives. Furthermore, the individual states have to show political courage and effectiveness in promoting the necessary changes that will allow a swift adaptation to the highly competitive international environment, regardless of the political cost and the inevitable clash with ingrained convictions. Finally, all these changes require a radical change in citizens’ mentality. The idea of giving only minimal effort, the near-parasitical tactics aiming to exploit EU funds for self-serving objectives, the refusal to dismantle a huge and extremely anomalous structure of privileges deriving from political favors, and the avoidance of adapting entrenched rights to changing circumstances are not only incompatible with the challenges of the new era but even threaten to reverse it. The assumptions of the outgoing period will be of no use in euroland. It is only by accepting this reality that Greece will manage to win a place in the new community of European nations. Communist Party chief Aleka Papariga, whose party is against the euro, commented: «It is a useful tool for the few, to collect greater wealth, but it will also constitute a useful tool for the many, for all those who need to pass from delusions to the great reality of action.»