Greece, the European Union, and the 2003 Presidency
Greece assumes the Presidency of the European Union on January 1st 2003, taking over from Denmark. With the green light for enlargement already delivered in Copenhagen, the Greek Presidency is one in which the normal "high" and "low" politics of EU policymaking will be mixed with the extraordinary realization of an historical vision for Europe.
One year after the equally momentous launch of the Euro, the economic prospects of Europe are clouded by uncertainty, mostly rooted in the global political and economic environment. The new impending reality of an EU-25, combined with questions of institutional reform in the enlarged Union, dominate the current EU debate. The Greek Presidency (the fourth after 1983, 1988 and 1994) will address a number of important issues pertaining to the EU's "ordinary" agenda. It will also be called to administer "extraordinary" issues, a possible US led military campaign against Iraq (with all its complex military, diplomatic, economic, humanitarian, and even environmental implications) standing at the top of the potential crises list.
Twenty-two years since its 1981 entry into the European Community, this is, in many ways, a very different Greece. A most impressive transformation involves Greece's position in the EU. Greece is no more the "reluctant partner", the "problem case", the "black sheep" of the Community (to recall just some of the rather uncharitable terms once employed).
It has matured to become not just a "normal" country, a "mainstream" EU member, but an ardent and committed European, and (since its 2001 EMU entry) finally a "success story" as well. This graduation from troubled adolescence and marginality to European "normality" and membership to the Eurozone core of Europe not only summarizes the momentous socioeconomic and political transformation of Greece, but it also testifies to the success of the European Union in helping bring about this transformation.
Greece (along with Spain and Portugal) is one of the three post-1974 "new democracies" of Southern Europe, and a market economy that was substantially liberalized since its accession. In that sense, Greece's experience is of particular value also for the young democracies and new market economies of Central and Eastern Europe, several of which will now be making their first strides as full EU members. 1 Since July 2002, Greece has already presided in the Eurogroup and over EU foreign and defense policy, given Denmark's opt-outs.
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