Quo vadis Europe?

The French referendum on the European Constitution yesterday and the upcoming vote in the Netherlands may seem like distant developments to most people in our country. But they should not. Greece is part of Europe. It has a say in European developments, and it is directly affected by major European events. The French referendum on the EU charter is one such event. Yes, the rejection of the treaty would send shock waves through the entire bloc. But it would also underscore all the crucial questions about European integration. Even if the final verdict is positive, French ambivalence toward the charter should continue to weigh heavily on officials in Brussels. That’s because misgivings over the text were expressed by a portion of the continental European public that has traditionally backed a closer union. There is little doubt that France addressed the question that has tortured many a European mind: Where is Europe going? Recent developments and the latest great wave of enlargement have slowed the momentum of political unification. The bloc has been reduced to a loose union without a political backbone. Even the common currency of the eurozone countries has been left in the hands of the central bank without any political guidance. The citizens of the founding EU members are anxiously watching convergence taking a toll on their incomes and the welfare state while simultaneously taking power away from the elected national governments and putting it into the hands of unseen and inaccessible bureaucrats. The EU’s overture toward Turkey – even if Greece can expect long-term gains from Ankara’s EU membership bid – has reinforced the impression among Europeans that Brussels is setting no geographical or cultural criteria for EU candidate members. However, there is a bright side to all this. According to a recent survey, one in three young people in the EU feel more European than citizens of their national state. However, this widespread sense of common identity will lead nowhere unless Europeans answer the crucial political and economic questions about their future. Greece inevitably has a role to play in these developments. The government must watch them carefully and stay active. John F. Kennedy’s famous declaration of solidarity in Berlin comes to mind. In this situation, we are all French.