OPINION

A say on Europe

We are now in the final stretch to the European elections, but the questions surrounding European integration are conspicuously absent from the Greek agenda. The Euro polls in Greece are once again to be reduced to a nationwide opinion poll. Greece is not an exception as the phenomenon is common to a larger or smaller extent in other member states. Most European citizens remain unconcerned with elections for the European Parliament, and only a small percentage turn out at the polling centers. The EU Parliament was originally a weak institution. Despite wielding some political influence, its resolutions were not binding. Things have improved, but the institution still falls far short of fulfilling its due role. Closing the bloc’s democratic deficit remains an unmet challenge and a lot depends on the future direction and nature of Europe’s integration. It would be a mistake to attribute public and political apathy to the limited clout of the Euro-Parliament. In truth, domestic politics remains too much centered around Greece. As a result, only a few days ahead of the ballot day, the media have made no serious effort to hold a serious political debate on the big issues surrounding the unification process. Party campaigns are not the best or most effective way of rousing public interest in Greece and in other member states. Only when citizens get a clearer grasp on reality will the climate start to change – and the reality is that many of the decisions influencing our everyday life are taken in Brussels. The European Parliament plays an important role in shaping these decisions. That said, we should note that the tickets presented by Greece’s two major parties could have been better – particularly in the light of Greece’s serious national issues. Even if that were not the case, the EU stands at a crucial crossroads. The European Constitution, drafted by former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, is not the ideal one, but it does offer a point of convergence. Above all, it responds to the need for an acceleration of the integration process. The EU’s history is one of antithesis and synthesis, of deadlocks and overcoming – something that was to be expected in such an unprecedented experiment. Despite the considerable differences between its members, the EU has managed to hammer out a shared identity and a common perspective – a guarantor of stability even in turbulent times. European integration can only come about through consensus and compromise. Decisions cannot take place behind people’s backs. The better the quality of our representatives, the stronger Greece’s influence on them will be.