The world's largest economic power expands from nine to ten — and it may not stop there. Here is the significance of Greece's entry into the European Community.
NO NEW YEAR'S Day, 1981, Greece became the European Community's tenth member. Greece's accession expands the Community — commonly called the Common Market — to nearly 270 million people. Of far more significance, the EC has solidified its position as the world's number-one economic and trading power.
First in Global Trade
Most Americans, Canadians, Australians and others living in the Western world not directly tied into the Community's worldwide linkages, have little comprehension of its global impact. The gross national product of the Community is about equal to that of the United States. But the EC far surpasses the United States in foreign trade — $176 billion dollars more than America in 1979. The Community now accounts for nearly one fourth of all the world's imports, and close to 22 percent of total exports. And this does not include trade within the Community. Now, more than ever, much of the ocean-going portion of this trade will be transported in the holds of Common Market ships. Greece, with 4,000 vessels, is the world's premier shipping nation. By virtue of Greek membership, fully one third of worldwide merchant-fleet tonnage will belong to the Community.
Long March for Athens
Greece's formal induction into the Common Market has been a long time in coming. It became an associate member in 1962. Progress toward full membership, however, stalled while the Greek military ruled the country from 1967 to 1974. The last step along the road to full membership was reached May 28, 1979, when official papers were signed by Prime Minister (now President) Constantine Karamanlis and representatives of the nine EC countries. Mr. Karamanlis — more than anyone the architect of Greece's Market policy — said that it was a "historical moment that marks the end of a long march and solemnly seals the fusion of our destinies with those of Europe... an unswerving belief in the necessity of a united Europe and in the European destiny of my country have at long last... found their justification." Greece's entry brings both benefits and headaches to the Community and its newest member. Above all, it signals a change in the orientation of the EC. From a basically central and northern European group it now becomes one with a southern, Mediterranean posture. This new direction will be accentuated with the expected linkup, in 1983 or 1984, of Spain and Portugal. And if Turkey becomes a full member — a distant possibility — the EC will extend to the very doorstep of the Middle East. Greece, in her own right, is an important stepping stone to the Middle East. It is the hub for 200 American companies doing business in the region. Greece also has close ties with Cyprus, which is nearly eighty percent Greek.
The "southern cousins" knocking on the Common Market door are all considerably less developed than the EC as a whole. Greece's gross national product is less than half that of most other members of the Community, though its growth rate has been faster in recent years. Its standard of living is roughly the same as Ireland, the Community's previously poorest state, though it has a wider disparity of wealth between urban and rural areas. The southern expansion of the Common Market means that Mediterranean-type agricultural products assume considerable significance. "Until now," reports Europe, a semiofficial publication of the EC (July-August, 1979, issue), "the Community has been dominated by northern European economic interests, especially those of cereals and dairy farmers. In the future, much more attention will be paid to the interests of Mediterranean wine, citrus and olive oil producers." Agriculture is of supreme — almost inordinate — importance to the Common Market. Agricultural price supports — which Greece's 660,000 farmers will now benefit from — consume nearly three fourths of the EC's annual budget. Nearly all talk about the Common Market bureaucracy centers around its controversial Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which, critics say, is nothing but a bottomless pit in which the EC members pour more and more of their revenues. The German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau, June 14, 1980, commenting on the gradual assimilation of the three wine-and-oil producers (Greece, Spain, Portugal), noted that future wine surpluses alone are likely to amount to between five and ten million hectoliters (130 million to 260 million gallons) a year. Olive oil production is another potential surplus problem. Nearly fifty percent of all Greek farmers are olive oil producers. And in Spain, two million farmers are engaged in olive oil production. Thus, in addition to the Common Market's already embarrassing butter, powdered milk, beef and tomato "mountains" can be added the prospects of overflowing wine and olive oil "lakes."
Still, Greeks Want In
The government of the EC's newest member is aware of the traumas its economy can expect, especially in manufacturing. Greece's industry is predominantly small scale, most of it consisting of only one to four people. For this reason, its industrial sector will have a grace period of five years to gradually adjust to the EC tariff structure and expected competition. According to public opinion polls, most Greeks appear to be in favor of the EC link. Many are philosophical about the changes and challenges. They feel they are at last "joining Europe," which they are a part of geographically, of course, but not until now as a state of mind. Newspaperwoman Helen Vlachos, editor and publisher of Kathimerimi in Athens, wrote: "The Greek people have a deep wish to belong at last to a group, to a family of familiar countries. And Europe is the one and only that qualifies for that part. Europe is... a special, admired, envied, and in many ways, an imaginary continent." "For better or worse," continued Mrs. Vlachos, "Greece becomes a part of an affluent, civilized, respectable family.... Why not accept the challenge. What have we to lose?" The board chairman of a large Athens bank adds: "Today, most Greeks probably feel that if the Community had not already existed for them to join, they would have had to invent it for that purpose. And is there, indeed, any other alternative? Greece does not want to become a communist country, neither does it have the economic clout of countries like Sweden or Switzerland enabling it to 'go it alone.'... Going European for Greece also means helping to make the dream of a politically united Europe come true." Common Market officials, in turn, are very pleased over Greece's accession (though not a few have reservations about negotiations with the Iberian countries). "The entry of Greece into the Community is a major political act that constitutes a turning point in the Common Market's life," said Gaston Thorn of Luxembourg, who on January 1 took over as Commission president, the EC's chief executive post. "The enlargement of the Common Market southward is a key date in history of European civilization."
More Brussels Bureaucrats
Greece's entry certainly complicates the Community's linguistic and decision-making processes. Greek becomes the EC's seventh official language (with Spanish and Portugese looming just ahead). One of the biggest organizational changes involves the small army of interpreters and translators who already account for one third of the total staff employed at the EC Commission. For the instantaneous translations needed at Common Market meetings, the EC employs 303 full-time interpreters plus 200 freelance interpreters. This is even more than at the United Nations. One of the big problems now is to find interpreters who can simultaneously translate between two of the Community's, minor tongues, such as from Danish to Greek and vice versa. Such persons are hard to find, meaning that interpreters often have to work by way of a relay from an intermediate major tongue. This naturally increases the chance of error. The written translation headache also is growing. The Market's 580 translators have to translate into the various official tongues 500,000 pages of official documents every year. (This total was determined before Greece's membership added to the burden and forced the hiring of yet another 120 interpreters and translators.) Common Market translation officials shake their heads at having to provide, someday, services into the difficult Turkish language. The Greek government, for its part, has only 120 official translators. Yet it will need 650 just to translate EC documents and regulations.
Too Many Chiefs?
This linguistic babel is bad enough. Each new country also complicates the political machinery necessary to run the Community. The publication Europe comments on this problem: "The addition of Greece as the 10th member state will put extra steam on the Community's decision-making process. The EC Council of Ministers will now have 10 members — which will make it that much more difficult to reach unanimous agreement on major issues, especially anything to do with Turkey [Greece's arch rival]. On lesser issues, where decisions are taken by qualified majority, Greece will have five votes out of a total of 63. The number of votes necessary to make a decision will be raised from 41 to 45." There will also be an EC commissioner from Greece at the Commission headquarters in Brussels — raising the number of commissioners to fourteen. A committee of "Three Wise Men" is presently studying what institutional changes will be needed to take account of the entry not only of Greece but also of Spain and Portugal so that the Community can continue to function efficiently.
A Two-tiered EC?
The heartland countries of the EC — West Germany, France, Italy — are understandably concerned over the Community's shift to include the poorer nations of southern Europe. Politically, the move has advantages. A more stable Greece and Turkey helps shore up Europe's southern flank. But many social and economic problems are expected. Will citizens of all the poorer members, for example, be able to circulate freely throughout the entire Community, having the right to work in any country they please, enjoying full work and welfare benefits and the complete range of social and educational rights? Already, in northern and central member states, afflicted with sluggish economies, there are growing negative reactions to the "guest workers" from some of these same countries. Little wonder some EC policy thinkers are now talking about a future two-tiered Community, composed first of all of those members having full status and right of movement for their citizens, and secondly, for the poorer countries, some sort of permanent association status. The latter would enjoy sharing in the EC's political decision-making powers, but migration of their nationals would be stringently controlled.
Many Tongues, One Voice
Whatever the Common Market's immediate future, January 1, 1981, was certainly a milestone. The Community has grown considerably from the six charter nations who officially banded together on January 1, 1958 — France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. On another New Year's Day, this time in 1973, Britain, Ireland and Denmark linked up. Norway also was to join on that date but opted out at the last minute. Now Greece is in, making the Nine the Ten. Spain and Portugal mayor may not join forces. One European news source predicts "monstrous difficulties" could arise in negotiations with Madrid and Lisbon, especially over agriculture. Still, as Theo Sommer, the editor of West Germany's prestigious weekly, Die Zeit, editorialized: "The new European idea has taken root despite all the workaday squabbles about nuts and bolts, chicken feed and oranges.... " The Common Market's component parts will not disappear, conc1udes Sommer, "nor will national governments dwindle into insignificance.... Yet in the eyes of the outside world, the Community will more and more assume the character of a single entity, speaking in different tongues but with one voice, and implementing a collective will."
The Community exerts influence far beyond its European confines, both politically and economically. More than 100 nations maintain accredited representatives at the Commission headquarters in Brussels. In the economic field, the EC has negotiated commercial or association agreements with more than ninety countries around the world. Its most important trade-and-development assistance tie-up is with fifty-seven small countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. This is known as the Lome Convention, named after the capital of Togo in Africa where the accords were signed in 1975 and 1979. The Lome Convention guarantees free access to the Common Market for 99.5 percent of the so-called ACP (Africa-Caribbean-Pacific) countries. The real significance of the Lome pact is that the links of the fifty-seven ACP countries are with Brussels, not the individual European countries of the EC. Recently the EC also signed a non preferential trade agreement with the five-nation ASEAN trade group in Southeast Asia. The Communist world too is increasingly coming to terms with the Common Market. The EC carries on more than four times as much business with Communist countries as does the United States. The Soviet Union itself is loath to deal with the EC as a bloc, preferring nation-to-nation contacts. Thus relations between the Community and the Moscow-based East European COMECON group are frosty. Nevertheless, in the summer of 1980, independent-minded Romania signed its first full trade accord with the Community. The pact was regarded on both sides as economically important and politically symbolic. Romania has been developing contacts with the EC since 1972. Also in 1980, Yugoslavia entered into far-reaching negotiations for a new and novel cooperative agreement, which, if accepted, would give Belgrade a status equivalent to associate membership. With Greece in the Market, Yugoslavia will now be bordered by two EC members (Italy to the northwest).
Like Babylon of Old
Your Bible predicts that there will arise a great world-encompassing economic-political bloc at the close of our age — just before the ushering in of the Kingdom of God. It is spoken of in the book of Revelation as "Babylon." Significantly, The Wall Street Journal, commenting on the EC's expanding linguistic difficulties said, on January 12, 1981, "An official market report has warned that the babel could become so great as to be unmanageable." The thirteenth verse of Revelation eighteen draws attention to two products traded in this coming "Babylon": oil and wine — both sure to be in abundance very soon. And verse seventeen tells of the far-flung ocean-going trade of this colossus, referring to "all shipmasters and seafaring men, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea." Ultimately ten nations, or groups of nations, will dominate the heart of this system (Revelation 17:12). As to which ten, we must still wait and see. Events now occurring in Poland and Eastern Europe may lead to some of those nations joining forces with the West. (See "Crisis in Eastern Europe; Where It Will Head," February, 1981, Plain Truth.) Greece's membership in the European Community is important primarily for the commercial resources she brings to it — not because she has become the tenth member.