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Greek Foreign Affairs Council 5 to 1 Conversation with Romano Prodi

Greek Foreign Affairs Council  5 to 1 Conversation with Romano Prodi

A former professor of economics, Prodi ran in 1996 and led The Olive Tree coalition, winning the general election and served as Prime Minister of Italy until 1998.

In September 1999 Prodi, became President of the European Commission, thanks to the support of both the conservative European People's Party and social-democratic Party of European Socialists in the European Parliament. It was during Prodi's presidency, in 2002, that eleven EU member states left their national currencies and adopted the euro as their single currency. Following the victory of his coalition The Union, in the April 2006 Italian elections, Prodi became Italy’s Prime Minister again.

A strong supporter of European Integration, our conversation evolved around the Refugee/Migration Crisis as well as the new role of the European Commission.

Dear Mr President, first of all thank you very much for being here today, ill cut straight away to the chase, the EU is facing one of its greatest political and social crises in its history, having that said, the Refugee/Migration crisis has shaken up the foundations of the EU and now we are facing an existential European problem, it’s hard to talk about long-term solutions but what could be the short term solutions?

Look, first of all taking in account my Political experience, I think that we have short term, temporary and eternal problems affecting Europe. Let us put it this way: Migration is unfortunately an eternal problem; take a look at the demography explosion in Africa and compare it to the demography we have in Europe. In addition, add the factors of the temporary dramas of the Syrian and the Libyan wars; Therefore, the real remedy of the latter is by enforcing peace in the region and that can only be a product of a rapprochement of U.S and Russia, believe me when I say there is no other possibility to solve this issue, this is the only way out.  Because when for example Turkey and Saudi Arabia are indirectly involved, everybody makes the situation a complicated game, and because of this, the issue is always a mess. Let me be clear though, the specific problem surfaced exactly because of this tangled situation, having that said, there are countries that are over boarded; in the beginning it was Italy, in the last years it’s Greece. Over boarded especially for Greece means that a single country cannot take the burden! Consequently, I am also surprised that the European Decision in the last Council is concentrated on helping Turkey and not helping Greece, I have even made a public statement on this.

I want to connect that with the next question, the issue is clearly interconnected with the Schengen Treaty, there are political voices which support a new treaty with borders where only EU citizens will be allowed to move freely.

Look, Turkey is the only country having a “Nuclear Bomb” - demographically speaking and although the Refugee Crisis is contemporary, you can’t suspend Schengen, it will be the end of Europe.

But what about modifying it?

Modify; look I have a rough headache on this issue, free circulation is a precondition of the EU, however you can also suspend the treaty for some time, but this would be a bad idea at this moment; basically, by ‘touching’ Schengen you touch and by extent change Europe. Clearly however, in this situation you also have an alternative option, In order to avoid the suspension of the treaty, you should accompany certain actions with a strong protection of external borders and what I think is more correct, is that the protection should not be solely left in the hands of Greece or Italy but in all of Europe. Basically, if you want to have a free circulation area you have to have common European borders.

However, the decision making process in the EU has changed, for example when European leaders come to discuss this issue at the European Council the process is different from what it was ten years ago. I am referring of course to countries that have threatened the use of veto, I remind you that Greece and Cyprus came very close to doing so. From the other side, the European Commission seems to be inadequate in tackling the crisis, in effect and taking in account your Presidency, don’t you see major differences regarding the European Commission’s role?

Definitely, it’s a new world, everything has been nationalized, in this part Europe has made a very strong step back. In my time as President, the Commission was leading every process, it was a very important actor, but now the problem is in the hands of the nation states and as you mentioned, the veto force, even if its commonly applied elsewhere, it creates problems within the EU. I mean, the initiatives of the governments are clearly visible, take Hungary, not only Germany, for example. Therefore, because of the veto right, because of the new increased powers of the nation states, they are much stronger than the EU institutions. In my opinion, recurrences in policy making must be accompanied with a strong effort by EU officials without the opportunity of nation states to take major decisions. And if you ask me if I’m a pessimist or an optimist, I’m not an optimist because of this change in policy making. Do remember this, in the future, if we don’t have a new European collective agreement, Europe will be in danger.  

Are you referring to an adoption of a new treaty?

You name it, constitution whatever you want, for a simple reason, in a difficult crisis, just like the Greek crisis, Europe was in danger, it was basically a problem concerning governments, affecting people, but concerning governments. Now there is such a motion, that immediately people are pushing the governments, so there is a complete change, therefore I think Europe is in danger without a new treaty.

One last question regarding Greek – Italian relations, what perspectives do you foresee?

Una faccia una razza! Now look, I’m still in contact with my old Greek friends, I don’t know the new political generation, but I’ll tell you this, there is such a spontaneous alliance, common vision and mentality that I don’t doubt that we must stick together, however we are not enough. I always think that we must present an alternative political platform, alternative to the severity and austerity but you need a large number of countries and this is not the case. Even France and Spain should be interested in that direction contrasting Germany, therefore there must be a political direction in Europe towards that and the two countries can make a start.

 

Konstantinos Ntantinos

Leonidas Marcantonatos

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