European challenge

The European Commission recommendation was the first step in European Union enlargement with the accession of 10 new members. This development has rightly been heralded as an historical turning point – the second after the successful launch of the common currency – on the path of transforming the Old Continent, which was until recently divided by hot and cold wars, into a single economic and geopolitical unit with global influence. The looming expansion of the European Union, and the institutional reform that will come with it, will be of benefit to all current member countries as well as the newcomers. But if there is one country which has an interest in the prospect of a bigger union of 25 members (which shortly afterward could rise to 27), this is Greece. The accession of Cyprus into the common European home will provide the best guarantee for the island’s security and a strong catalyst for overcoming its division – especially if Greece’s EU peers keep Turkey’s membership prospect open, in line with Greece’s genuine ambition. Such a development, combined with the ongoing dismantling of domestic terrorism, will remove two of the most acute outstanding issues in Greece’s post-1974 history, which have put the brakes on the country’s modernization and rendered it vulnerable to outside manipulation. Furthermore, as a eurozone member Greece has well-founded hopes that it will be among the fast-track countries in an enlarged EU – a position that entails huge economic and political benefit. True, the political ratification and the practical implementation of enlargement presuppose the removal of certain outstanding problems and the transcendence of other economic, institutional and political obstacles. But in light of the political will of all the key EU member states, none of these problems seem insurmountable. In any case, the course of the union and of our national issues inside the EU framework are a triumphant vindication of the pro-European strategy that was instigated by the late Constantine Karamanlis and which was later adopted by the political parties that express the overwhelming majority of the Greek people. This was a strategy that met with strong resistance by a disparate euro-skeptical camp, which ridiculed or underestimated the momentum of European integration, inflated its perils, foresaw national tragedies and economic disasters and urged officials to engage in a hopeless rearguard action that was bound to push Greece into the margins of Europe. No sensible person would claim that Greece’s membership in European integration could automatically pilot the country into tackling its economic and national problems. Achievements so far have been the fruit of painstaking efforts, tough bargaining and costly sacrifices by the Greek people. But there is one think which cannot be questioned: The European Union is the optimal battlefield for modern Greece. And this is a battle that can be won.