“Challenges for a changing Europe”
Forty years after Greece’s accession to the European family, Europe is embarking on a new chapter in its evolution, attempting an internal transformation, reassessing its overall priorities, policies and relations with third countries.
It began last year, when Europe not only bolstered the European economies against the pandemic with innovative and unprecedented tools, like the Recovery Fund, but also undertook the collective management of the public health crisis, despite not having primary responsibility for public health issues. It decided, albeit with some delay, to act centrally, as a unit, achieving historic steps towards integration. Thus, the 27 member states, in an unprecedented move, harmonised their policies on trade and transport of medical supplies. The European Commission negotiated on behalf of all the EU member states to procure vaccines from various companies and, having accelerated global research through bold funding, distributed the vaccines proportionately to the member states. Subsequently, it organized a vast plan for parallel European vaccination and, as a logical extension, is already in the process of establishing a European vaccination certificate. A certificate that was first proposed by the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and was gradually adopted by the other member states.
This decision on a common vaccination certificate is a truly historic moment for the Union. Firstly, because – without creating discrimination – it makes it easier for all Europeans to move freely, while also safeguarding public health. But also because the Europe of 500 million people is again coming together to jointly solve a major, common problem. It is avoiding divisive competition and is ensuring cohesion without the fragmentation that would constitute a major setback after all the painstaking efforts of the recent months. The vaccination certificate is thus the first step towards opening up tourism and our economy. So that we can, finally, win our freedom back.
The thorough reassessment of EU-Turkey relations to be carried out at the upcoming March meeting of the European Council is another aspect of the reforms being pursued by the Union. It is now clear that Europe’s relationship with Turkey cannot continue as it is after everything that has happened in recent months. Turkey’s provocation towards Greece and Cyprus, its extreme rhetoric against leading European powers, its constant violations of human rights domestically, and its involvement in almost all of the active conflicts in the wider region cannot guarantee a future of security and cooperation with Europe.
It is therefore important for the Union to adopt a new policy on Turkey – a policy that safeguards Europe’s credibility and strengthens its geopolitical power. The Union must make clear to Turkey that Europe functions based on rules of law and that, if Turkey continues to provoke tensions, Brussels will impose sanctions on Ankara. Sanctions that – though not an end in themselves – remain on the table, not as posturing for internal political consumption, but as a serious and credible threat designed to deter Turkish violations. This is the message the Union has sent at all recent meetings of the European Council, and we are asking for this to be reconfirmed again on every level. Most of my counterparts have already expressed their support for Greece in our bilateral meetings and in the context of the EU General Affairs Council.
Finally, the culmination of this whole reformation of the European Union is the Conference on the Future of Europe, which starts in May and is aimed at redetermining the Union’s priorities as a whole. This Europe-wide dialogue between Union officials and, mainly, between the EU and its citizens encapsulates the Union’s profound democratic heritage and is a unique opportunity for a new beginning. This Conference is an opportunity for Europe to acknowledge its weaknesses and recommit to its aspirations with realism and determination, based on common interest. It is an opportunity for Europe to become stronger, more open, more ambitious.
Greece has a dynamic presence in this dialogue, participating actively. Not just because it can – due to the institutional maturity and experience it has gained through 40 years of uninterrupted membership in the hard core of the European Union – but also because it sees Europe as its home and it wants this home to be secure, solid and imposing on the international stage.
Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Hellenic Republic