Athens, August 27, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Spiros Sideris
Europe is faced with an unprecedented situation which must be treated with seriousness, sobriety and composure. That is the Greek position expressed by both the Prime Minister of Greece Alexis Tsipras, but also by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias.
The outcome of the British referendum constitutes a failure for Europe, which has failed to convince the most skeptical State, Great Britain, on the importance of its involvement in it. On the other hand, this situation may be seen as an opportunity and a challenge for the European Union, which must show adaptability to the new international developments.
The Old Continent is facing enormous and unprecedented challenges. The economic crisis, the refugee issue, the rise of terrorism, multiple tensions in the region, and the centrifugal tendencies that are clearly being developed internally, threaten for the first time in history the European project, the welfare and cohesion of the European Union, which has failed to alleviate economic inequality and financial imbalances between North and South.
The situation in the perifery is far from inspiring optimism. Foreign Minister Kotzias has repeatedly made reference to the instability triangle, Ukraine, Middle East, Mediterranean, Libya, in the middle of which is Greece. Meanwhile, the situation in the Balkans is degraded and the European perspective of most Balkan countries is stagnating thus creating the impression that there is a black hole in the soft underbelly of Europe (political crisis in FYROM, Albania, unemployment and internal contradictions in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo). Te situation is obviously complicated by the recent developments in Turkey, where the coup attempt, the declaration of a state of emergency and the deterioration of Euro-Turkish relations are far from contributing to the European perspective of Turkey and ultimately to regional stability.
In this environment, Europe looks startled and timid, creating even more problems and complicating the situation with the formation of groups within it.
The informal summit of the 27 in Bratislava on September 16 will mark the official opening, on the part of Europe, of the road to the withdrawal of Britain from the EU. Britain on its part has been holding its cards closed, smartly leaving the EU to first opening its own.
The withdrawal of Britain from the European Union will have a huge impact on all EU operations and in each individual country, both in countries that Britain has direct interconnection, such as Malta, Cyprus, Ireland as well as to neighboring countries and with each member state separately. It is also certain that the departure of Britain will have an affect internal correlations (Franco-German axis, the eastern bloc, the North-South cpountries, the Atlantic bloc, group of neoliberal countries) that affect the course and the EU policy in a number of issues.
The European Union has to face perhaps the most difficult negotiation in its history, having as a key priority to preserve its values and its cohesion and avoid institutional paralysis. Another aim also is maintaining the four fundamental freedoms of the single market, free movement of goods, capital, services and people. Concerns however cause the impact to the European budget, the decision-making system, the new emerging balance/agreement on the new weighting of votes, the Common Foreign and Defence policy, the NATO – EU relations, but also areas such as enlargement, after the departure of a force which kept a certain attitude to enlargement both towards the Balkans and Turkey.
All the above, with proper, serious, sober and dispassionate outlook, may become the strongest playing card of Greece, for its position in the EU and the minimization of the negative impact from the British exit.
Greece, as it seems, prepares in time, considering all the possible consequences, so as to be ready – during the forthcoming negotiations – to safeguard its national interests and prevent any adverse effects.
In this context is included the decision of the Greek Foreign Minister to establish the unpaid Working Group, which will operate within the framework of the Scientific Centre of Analysis and Planning, with regard to the study of European developments and the impact of the British referendum. Apart from government officials, in the team take part tow University professors, namely Napoleon Maravegias and Konstantinos Stephanou.
The Working Group has already started its preparations prioritizing the extensive recording of the positions of the remaining 27 Member States on the impact of the British withdrawal in each sector separately. Additionally, the members of the committee work towards formulating and investigating all possible scenarios and explore ways to appropriatly shield and protect the Greece’s national interests.
In parallel, Nikos Kotzias has launched – after the approval and relevant suggestion by the Prime Minister – the establishment of an unpaid Interministerial Committee, chaired by the Foreign Ministry, which will deal with the preparation of the Greek state for any adverse effects of Britain’s withdrawal in each of the sectors of the greek economy separately, not only theoretically, but by focusing on key issues concerning the Greek economy.
The close monitoring of the underformation new data in the EU and the initiatives of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias suggest a systematic approach and good preparation for the summit in Bratislava.