EU: the existential debate

The celebration of Europe Day yesterday prompts an observation on the leadership crisis plaguing the vast majority of EU countries. Even traditionally vigorous supporters of the «European idea» admit the matter has reached an impasse. France, one of the EU’s powerhouses, is facing unrest because of scandals within the government and is too distracted to put the EU project on track. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who once charmed the European business community, has been so humbled politically that replacing him is considered necessary to keep the Labour Party in power. In this discouraging atmosphere of disintegration, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the new leading personality of a united Europe, is slowly and steadily rising, which the government and the Greek political system in general should take into serious consideration. Former Prime Minister Costas Simitis had built up a fruitful connection with his German counterpart Gerhardt Schroeder, and it would certainly benefit Greece if Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s government systematically cultivated a wide-ranging, substantive dialogue with Berlin. The crucial point of difference is how the outcome of Turkey’s European ambitions is perceived. This is by no means a trifling issue, since it concerns the essence of the «European vision.» In her speech on Tuesday, Merkel hinted at the issue with Turkey and other EU candidate countries by noting that «we must tell certain countries that their accession to the EU is not possible in the near future.» And she stressed that «we must clearly determine where the borders of Europe end.» Greece unconditionally supported the prospect of Turkey’s EU accession, but Ankara’s behavior became more aggressive. The government must initiate a serious dialogue on Turkey’s European future.