The EU ex­pe­ri­ence, 30 years on

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY NIKOS XYDAKIS

Alot has changed since Greece joined the Euro­pean Eco­nomic Com­mu­nity, the fore­run­ner to the Euro­pean Union, 30 years ago. Europe is not the same, Greece is not the same, and the world around them is not the same. Most im­por­tantly, ex­pec­ta­tions have changed: The ex­pec­ta­tions – which were jus­ti­fied at the time – of Greece’s mod­ern­iza­tion and full in­te­gra­tion with the rest of Europe have been de­feated – and not sim­ply be­cause of our own fail­ures. Greece al­ways seemed to drag its feet; it wasted too much pre­cious po­lit­i­cal time; it squan­dered com­mu­nity money; it never re­ally man­aged to catch up with the rest of Europe; it re­duced it­self to end­less navel-gaz­ing. Mean­while, Europe grad­u­ally gave up on its his­tor­i­cal am­bi­tions for po­lit­i­cal uni­fi­ca­tion. The in­ter­ests of the more pow­er­ful na­tions, the costly bu­reau­cracy, the op­por­tunis­tic waves of EU en­large­ment – all that cor­roded the col­lec­tive ef­fort to build a con­fed­er­a­tion of Euro­pean states. Eco­nomic pol­icy has been in­flex­i­ble and in­ca­pable of safe­guard­ing so­ci­eties against the shock of an in­ter­na­tional cri­sis. The com­mon agri­cul­tural pol­icy even­tu­ally worked at the ex- pense of the south­ern states; and, very cru­cially, the com­mon for­eign and se­cu­rity pol­icy never re­ally ma­te­ri­al­ized. As a re­sult, Europe found it­self di­vided in the face of his­toric chal­lenges like the end of the com­mu­nist sys­tem in 1989, the war in Iraq, and the global mi­gra­tion waves. The global eco­nomic melt­down ex­posed the EU’s fail­ure to pro­tect its peo­ple against the unchecked ac­tiv­ity of credit or­ga­ni­za­tions. Over those 30 years, Greek pro­duc­tiv­ity de­clined fur­ther. In­tox­i­cated by cheap bor­row­ing and sub­si­dies, with­out long-term plan­ning and sub­jected to an unchecked in­flow of im­mi­gra­tion for two decades, it was the first link on the EU pe­riph­ery to break. Debt-rid­den Greece – and the sim­i­lar cases of Por­tu­gal and Ire­land – is test­ing the strength of Europe’s po­lit­i­cal struc­ture – not just the strength of the euro cur­rency. The vi­sion of a united Europe, as dreamt up in the ashes of the Sec­ond World War, has been the most am­bi­tious plan of peace­ful trans­for­ma­tion in mod­ern times. It started out as a his­toric vi­sion for a Europe of peace, unity and pros­per­ity. Two of these, unity and pros­per­ity, are al­ready at risk.

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