Statesman Constantine Karamanlis had the "persistent insight" to pursue Greece's membership in the European family since 1961, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in an address at the Constantine G. Karamanlis Foundation on "Greece's Path to a Unified Europe" on Wednesday.
The application for membership in June 1975 was met with doubt by other countries but found a staunch ally in France's president Valery Giscard d' Estaing, but the persistence of the New Democracy founder, who served as prime minister and later president, was vindicated in the last 40 years, Mitsotakis said. Membership came in January 1981, followed by what he called two landmark events, Greece's membership in the Eurozone and the EU accession of Cyprus.
Greece's participation in European events was a central political choice for the entire center-right, with Constantine Karamanlis leading," the premier said, and it was a choice that was tested strongly by challenges through time, including doubts abroad for Greece's membership early on. "The deepening of democracy and the country's progress are now aligned with Europe," he added. The country's membership opened the way as well to membership for souther European countries, including Spain and Portugal.
The premier said that the party Karamanlis founded "was and will be the party of Greece in Europe," and his own government worked to boost Athens' institutional presence in Brussels. Despite the challenges, the choice Karamanlis made "is now established" and the late statesman would have been proud to see his party's consistent support of European membership. In addition, Greece now can protect its own borders, and in doing so also protect the EU borders as well, he underlined.
"Greece in 2021 is radically different from Greece in 1981, because there has been no public field that has not benefited from EU influence, as Constantine Karamanlis had so wisely foreseen - from the funding of infrastructure and the restructuring of farm production to the expansion of rights, the state of law, social cohesion and cultural creativity," Mitsotakis said. "The revocation of protectionism within the common market may in the beginning have highlighted our economy's infrastructural weaknesses, but in the medium term it upgraded its entire functionality."