Following the lead of a postwar feat

Yesterday the state honored the living protagonists of a national achievement in a ceremony commemorating the signing of the EEC accession treaty. Twenty-seven years ago, on May 28, 1979, Greece achieved one of the most important goals in its postwar history. It became a member of the advanced West, the tenth member of what was then called the European Economic Community (EEC). The ceremony at the Zappeion Mansion was the result of a major feat by then-Prime Minister Constantinos Karamanlis. The late statesman concluded this venture in the face of tremendous opposition both at home and abroad. As for the domestic pressure, it must be remembered that two years after the accession agreement was signed, the majority of the Greek electorate gave a total of 60 percent of the vote to the two parties (PASOK and the Greek Communist Party) who had opposed Greece’s entry to the Community on the grounds that it would become part of the hated NATO alliance. But European governments were also persuaded by Karamanlis’s persistence to override the European Commission’s report undermining Greece’s ambitions. Karamanlis’s policy should teach us that Greece can achieve major national goals when leaders work creatively, without considering the short-term political cost. Greece made political, diplomatic and financial gains from Karamanlis’s decision. But his wishes were not completely fulfilled. Many remnants of the past prevent us from becoming the European country of which Karamanlis dreamed. The resolution of problems such as the squandering of EU funds, vested interests, corruption, low productivity, and environmental neglect are the next national challenge. It is a challenge that we must meet.