Article by Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs Miltiadis Varvitsiotis in Kathimerini tis Kyriakis

Article by Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs Miltiadis Varvitsiotis in Kathimerini tis Kyriakis on the 40 years of Greece in the EU and the Conference on the Future of Europe (23.05.2021)

“The future of Europe in the hands of its citizens”

On May 28, 1979, Konstantinos Karamanlis signed at Zappeion the treaty of Greece’s accession to the EEC and changed the destiny of our Nation forever. Next Thursday, at the same historical site, we shall welcome the European leadership to celebrate the 40 years of living together in Europe.

During these four decades, Greece has changed considerably. It developed and matured, alongside Europe and within it. Acting in its natural European space, it built stable democratic institutions, established itself as a modern state governed by the rule of law, achieved economic growth and became a pillar of security, involved in international developments.

Being one of the oldest members of the Union, Greece experienced and promoted the whole process of the European Unification, this “revolutionary and original idea”, as Konstantinos Karamanlis put it.

Greece’s accession marked the transformation of the European Union from a geographical area into a geopolitical entity. Greece has always been active within the Union and has put its stamp on flagship policies. It supported the Enlargement, achieved the accession of Cyprus, supported the Mutual Assistance Clause, and fought hard for cohesion policies, from the Integrated Mediterranean Programs to the Recovery Fund. During the pandemic Greece pioneered the pan-European vaccination program and the Green Digital Certificate. Our country effectively guarded Europe’s borders, whenever needed. In short, Greece has always been a vibrant part of European history. Although our relations with the Union reached breaking point, in the end we always opted for “more Europe”.

But in a rapidly changing world, what kind of Europe do Greeks want? The Conference on the Future of Europe is the most appropriate, immediate and up-to-date framework for responding. We ask citizens to discuss the day after. Local government, academic institutions, social and professional bodies and Civil Society have a European democratic platform at their disposal which allows them to co-create. Brussels should remain silent and listen.

We have already established digital infrastructures at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in order to facilitate a nationwide dialogue. We have put forward a concrete proposal for an open, secure and friendly Europe with employment opportunities, “green” growth and a digital future. A Europe that respects the disagreements of the smaller states, is not wary of their essential safeguard (veto right), but uses it to reach broader consensus. Democratic legitimacy, redefining its role, renewing the trust of its citizens are just some of the benefits Europe is expecting to reap from this ambitious process.

Greece, with the institutional experience of 40 years, the lessons learned from the recent crises, its comparative advantages and the declared will of the government, can again become the driving force that will assist Europe realise its new role. For this to happen, the voice of its citizens needs to be heard loud and strong. “The future is in your hands”.