Greece - the European Union: 34 years together and we go on ...
The Greek and European Union flags

"Greece - the European Union: 34 years together and we go on ..."

With this optimistic tweet, through its Greek page, the European Commission showed its intention for further cooperation between the European Union and Greece - a country, which is probably one of the most important «fortresses» of European culture, because of its contribution to the construction of this edifice by lending concepts such as democracy, rule of law, freedom of thought and human rights. This country became a cultural beacon and inspiration due to all these values ​​and principles that the ancient Greek bequeathed to the new generations. All the above make it clear that the European orientation of Greece existed before the connection of the country's course with the efforts of European integration through the European Community and the European Union later.

However, let's see in detail the European course of Greece. The European orientation first manifested itself by the submission of a membership request to the newly established European Economic Community in June 1959, a request which later led to the EEC-Greece Association Agreement, in 1961. On July 12, 1975 Greece submitted a request for full membership, followed by negotiations, which were concluded on 28 May 1979, with the signing of the Treaty on the accession of Greece to the European Community at Zappeion Hall and ratification of the accession treaty by the Greek Parliament on 28 June, 1979. The treaty entered into force on 1 January 1981, when Greece became a full member.

 

The objectives of the Greek government, especially the Prime Minister’s K. Karamanlis was the pursuit of the country's integration into the European Community as a full member in order to solve serious domestic and foreign issues. Typically, the Community was considered to be the institutional framework which could stabilize the political system of Greece and its institutions, fulfill the pursuit of being independent, improve its position in the regional and international system and increase the negotiating power especially in relation towards Turkey, which at that time was one of the main threats in the Aegean. All of the aforementioned reasons are understandable, especially taking into account the historical period in which the application for gaining full membership was made: one year after 1974, when Greece had set an end to the dictatorship and the Turkish military codenamed Attila invaded northern Cyprus. At the same time, other important expectations were: easing the dependence of Greece from the United States of America (USA), the development and modernization of the Greek economy and society, but also the desire for the presence of the country and influence at the processes of European integration and the European model.

The participation of Greece in the European Community / Union in the period 1981-2002 could be divided into three periods: 1981-1985, 1985-1995 and 1996 to date.

In the first period the attention was focused on questioning certain serious aspects of European integration and on the country's attempt to gain a position in the Community with the parallel creation of a "special regime" of relations and regulations. Indeed, the country made an effort through a memorandum submitted to obtain further divergence from the implementation of Community policies, and to strengthen the restructuring of the economy. This has been largely satisfied by the adoption of the Integrated Mediterranean Programs (IMP) in 1985, which launched the effort to develop structural policy from the EU side, which crystallized in 1988 with the first Delors’ package. In general, during this period it could be said that the greatest focus of Greece was on the effort for deepening integration at an institutional, political and defensive level.

The second period is characterized by gradually stronger integrating positions, such as supporting the federalism as a system for consolidation and developing a common policy to new sectors (education, health and environment), the strengthening of supranational institutions and the developing of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). Of course, this period is distinguished by the economic vector of Greece from the other countries. It is important to mention the country's effort to ensure the accession of Cyprus to the European Community.

The third period is distinguished by supporting the European integration process in line with the federal model, as in the second period. Furthermore, what is also important is the fast pace during this period to achieve economic and social leap and fulfill the convergence criteria of the Maastricht Treaty and the subsequent involvement of the country in the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), which entered into force from January 1, 2002.

Greece, as derived from the above has benefited greatly from the EU programs, in terms of infrastructure but also in the general efforts in rebuilding and restoring the state and its institutions during the «political changeover» period. Therefore, isolation might be one of the major errors in the country's history due to strategic location, which will make it prey for the neighboring states that have directly served the interests on its territory.

At the same time, equally important will be the impact on the other Member States, which is also due to geostrategic position of the country, but also due to the debt of the Greece to them. Greece is a very important ally, and should definitely not join the East Block. As Robert D. Kaplan wrote in Wall Street Journal “If Greece does leave the euro-zone, the economic aftershocks to the domestic economy could reduce it to a semi-failed state that, along with the dismemberment and weakening of Ukraine, will seriously weaken Europe’s geopolitical position vis-à-vis Russia.”

The important relation between the EU and Greece could also be summed up in a phrase that was used by the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker «This is not a game of bluff or poker. It is not a case of one winner and one loser. Either we are all winners or we are all losers», a statement which signifies the mutual need of Member States to stay united in order to find the best solution.

Additionally, let's not forget that "Greece is Europe. Europe is Greece." And lastly, even if some of us have doubts about the European Union and remain euro-skeptics, exiting the European family is certainly not the solution. However, the attitude of both sides in the upcoming days is really important, because it will play a catalytic role in the outcome of the negotiations. Let’s hope as Greeks and as Europeans, that the solution will be sustainable for both sides, but also in accordance to the European course and the European history of the country.

Regardless of the outcome of the referendum on July 5th 2015, it is important to be mentioned that Greece has to be restructured, but the euro-zone may be facing unprecedented instability, in case of a Grexit.


Sources:

GR 2014, EU, Available at: http://www.gr2014.eu/el/eu-presidency/about-the-eu/greece-eu [Retrieved: 1/7/2015]

Hellenic Democracy, Ministry of Foreign Affrairs, Available at: http://www.mfa.gr/exoteriki-politiki/i-ellada-stin-ee/ [Retrieved: 1/7/2015]

European Commission, Transcript of President Jean-Claude Juncker, 29/6/2015, Available at: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-15-5274_en.htm [Retrieved: 1/7/2015]

The Wall Street Journal, The Greek Crisis Is About More Than Money, 30/6/2015 Available at: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB11486026120286184909004581077960515036484 [Retrived: 2/7/2015]