OPINION

Greece and Europe

The second round of the French presidential elections on Sunday is expected to produce a triumph for sitting President Jacques Chirac. His re-election, however, will not solve the underlying problem, which has been underscored by the resurgence of extreme rightist Jean-Marie Le Pen and, more generally, by the renaissance of far-rightist movements in Europe. Europe’s coming expansion and its future steps toward integration will be re-examined under the prism of this ongoing political turn in the political preferences of many European citizens. In this sense, it seems certain that the results of the first round of the French presidential race will have an impact on European developments in the near future and, depending on the extent that other states witness a similar trend, the impact will be immediate. Should extremist parties gain ground, the momentum of integration will slide, national isolationism will increase, protectionism will be on the rise, while the economic policies that would boost growth in the Old Continent and challenge America’s economic hegemony will be deferred or blocked. Greece has always looked forward to an open Europe, an enlarged Europe which will also include Cyprus, a large and democratic Europe which will allow the continent’s small and peripheral countries to play an active role inside a broader bloc. Up to now, Greece’s prevailing pro-European policy has yielded fruit, despite the fact that many in the country have managed to squander the advantages it has reaped. And it would be unfavorable for Greece if the integration process were to be undone or even slowed down. The country’s political parties must come together and explain to Greece’s citizens the gains and the anticipated benefits from Europe. At the same time they should firmly counter the opportunistic and simplistic approach of those who lash out at will against Economic and Monetary Union and who try to appear as enthusiasts of the old protectionist and entrenched state. It is not that long since Greece stumbled from one crisis to the next at the first sign of an oil-price rise or at the slightest turbulence in exchange rates.