Speech made by Ambassador Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos (*) at the Conference held at the University of Athens on March 11,2014 organized by the Institute of International Legal Studies by Professor Elias Crispis and by the Circle of Diplomats.
We all know in general terms about the history of the EU and I would not want to repeat it here. I will try to develop a brief description of the Treaties of the EU, the problems created, the situation of Greece and proposals for resolving the crisis.
The Treaty of Rome of 1957 created the EEC and its four institutional instruments, the Council of Ministers, the European Commission, the European Court of Justice and European Parliament. The original Member States were six which had to manage a free movement of goods, services, capital, labor and a common agricultural policy.
In 1987, the Single Act is signed which set up the single or internal market that made non- tariff barriers to trade illegal under EU laws. It also established harmonization so that there would be no differences in products or services produced in the Member States. Unanimity ws replaced by qualified or weighed majority voting across most economic areas in the EU, with the bigger Member States being allocated most votes.
The 1992, the Maastricht treaty required all EU Members, with the exception of Britain and Denmark, to abolish their national currencies and adopt a single EU currency, the euro. The 18 countries involved have abandoned their national controls of their rates of interest and their exchange rates. The European Central Bank decides these now.
The 1998, the Amsterdam Treaty extended the qualified majority voting to a number of new areas. It gave the EU its own code of human rights and its own external border and immigration policy. Under this Treaty, the European Arrest Warrant has removed many of the traditional safeguards in the extradition process, since action is taken even if the offence alleged is not an offence in the EU state, whose citizen’s extradition is requested.
The 2001, the Nice Treaty abolished the national veto and the extended qualified majority voting further into non-economic areas. It also anticipated enhanced cooperation.
Finally, we arrive to the Lisbon Treaty of 2009, which provided for the abolition of the European Community and its replacement by a constitutionally new European Union with full legal personality separate from and superior to that of the Member-States. The Treaty provides that as from this year a qualified majority for the purposes of making EU laws by the Council of Ministers, will consist of 55% of the States – which means 15 out of the 28 – as long as those 15 comprise 65% of the total EU population of some 500 million. With Germany and France among them having 1/3 of the EU’s population and half the population of the Eurozone, it allows those two countries to create a blocking minority if they can get one or two smaller allies as well as a powerful say in pushing through whatever measures they want. Lisbon also made the “European Council” into a formal EU institution for the first time, establishing the Permanent President of the European Council, who essentially presides over the Council of Ministers, thus reducing drastically the importance of the rotating presidency exercised by the Member States which now became more of an administrative presidency rather than one of substance. Lisbon also incorporated all the previous Treaties as well as the Charter of Fundamental Right of the EU.
Until the big enlargement of 2003, the EU was functioning effectively – even if not as effectively as it did during the 70’s and 90’s.Until then the Foreign Ministers, within the framework of the General Affairs Council, were able to solve issues pertaining to the budget, agriculture as well as other issues without the presence of experts. They locked themselves in consultations until the wee hours of the morning and resolved the problems in a direct dialogue. And of course, they took into consideration the interests of their peoples, in contrast to what is happening today.
From 2004 onwards the General Affairs Councils were held in the following way: The Ministers arrived, read an intervention written by someone else on all the subjects of the agenda, and then departed to hold bilateral talks, without listening to what their colleagues were saying. Many did not even stay for the working lunch. So, we have a United Nationalization of the EU which does not work for its advantage or for its effectiveness. If the EU politicians were serious, they would consecrate at least three days per month for the General Affairs Council. But they do not have the time to give three days to Europe and consequently the EU fell into the hands of the Brussels beaurocrats. Another negative effect was created by the constant celebratory statements of the European Councils which created the wrong impression that each meeting was resolving all the problems of the EU. The biggest failure was the Lisbon Strategy that had as aim to make the EU the most competitive and dynamic economy of the world by 2010 with better and more work positions and better social cohesion. In 2009, it was admitted by all that the strategy had failed. In 2000 the unemployment in the EU of the 27 was 20 million while in 2013 it was 26 million according to Eurostat.
Let us look into the situation of Greece. There were the reasons that made Konstantinos Karamanlis push for the accession of Greece to the EEC as it was then called. The first was to consolidate democracy, the second was to protect the country against Turkey and the third was to promote the economic development of Greece. It should be recalled that the then democratic EEC had countered the military dictatorship with every means possible particularly by freezing the Association Agreement and the Financial protocol. NATO on the other hand, had supported the junta. Xenofon Zolotas in his book published in 1978 wrote about the positive contribution of Greece to the EEC; he had underlined three areas where Greece had competitive advantages over the other Member States. These were mineral resources ,its geographical position with easy access to the Middle East and its Mercantile Marine. When Greece joined the EEC in 1981, it had a dynamic industry with a yearly rate of development of 7.4%, a dynamic agriculture and self-sufficiency in most products and with 24.2% of the population working in the latter. After its accession, Greece was obliged to limit its steel production since there was an overproduction in the EEC, and it dismantled its nascent automobile industry. Greece reduced its olive oil production since there existed olive oil lakes in the EEC, it restructured its agriculture reducing the percentage of population actively employed in that field. And for many years, by the purchase of military hardware, Greece kept the Belgian, French and German workers employed in their respective industries. Of course, the EU funds helped the development of Greece and many infrastructure projects were done with EU co-financing. Agriculture was also assisted, even though it remains unclear how much funding actually reached ita objective .On January 1,2002 Greece joined the eurozone, and after a few years, the problems started that resulted in today’s situation. After September 11,2001 and after the terrorist attacks in Madrid and London, the democratic deficit of the EU started increasing with measures that were either imposed on the EU by the USA or adopted by its own initiative. The result of these measures is a constant surveillance of the European people by their authorities.
Let us examine now the Greek economic crisis. The Greek government signed the Loan Agreement in May 2010, so that it could, through austerity measures, restructure the state and development policies to reduce the public debt which in 2009 was 129% of the GNP or 299 billion euros in absolute numbers. After two Memoranda and mistaken policies from the EU, the IMF and the Greek governments, Greece is on the verge of disaster. Greece has borrowed a total amount of 191 billion euros from 2010 until the end of 2013. And not only was the public debt not reduced, but it increased to 175% as percentage of the GNP or 321 billion euros. Unemployment of 470.620 people, or 9.5% increased by the end of 2013 to 1.374.054 people or 27.6%. The main reason for the failure of the measures was that the human factor was not taken into consideration. The Greek citizen was totally ignored and as a result Greece is facing today a social disaster without precedence and the beginning of a humanitarian crisis. And in spite of the fact that they had acknowledged their mistakes, the EU and the IMF continue to implement the same erroneous policy which has proven to be ineffective.
When the crisis broke out in 2010, the government, instead of asking the loan agreement, should had at least attempted to request the implementation of article 122 par.2 of the Lisbon Treaty which mentions the following: ”Where a Member State is in difficulties or is seriously threatened with severe difficulties caused by natural disasters or exceptional occurrences beyond its control, the Council, on a proposal from the Commission, may grant, under certain conditions, Union financial assistance to the Member State concerned…” Paragraph 2 was not applied because the European Commission and others presented the difficulty as a purely Greek problem – and not as recognized later on by the same European Commission – as a result of the global financial crisis for which Greece was not responsible.
But it is not only that the measures are erroneous, they also constitute a blatant violation of the Lisbon Treaty. Articles 2 and 3 have been violated. Article 2 mentions that the Union is founded on the values of respect of human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights etc. Article 3 para.1 says that the Union’s aim is to promote peace, its values and the well-being of its peoples. Also Articles 145-150 on employment,151-166 on social policy ,education and vocational training have all been violated. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, that is incorporated in the Lisbon Treaty, has also been violated as follows: Articles 1 on human dignity, 11 on freedom of expression and information,12 on freedom of assembly and association, 14 on the right to education, 15 on the freedom to choose an occupation and the right to engage in work, 17 the right to property, 20 equality before the law, 25 the rights of the elderly, 26 on the integrity of persons with disabilities, 30 on protection in the event of unjustified dismissal, 34 on Social Security and Social Assistance and 35 on protection of health. On this last issue, German citizens have filed a lawsuit at the International Criminal Court of The Hague (OTP CR 345/12) against unknown people for damaging the health of the Greek people. Hundreds of witness reports are being submitted by the victims in support of this lawsuit.
In order to avoid the destruction of Greece the following solution is proposed:
The denunciation of the Loan Facility Agreement of May 2010, signed between Greece and the Member-States of the Eurozone will be based on articles 48-52 of the Vienna Convention of the UN concerning the Law of Treaties. These articles anticipate the invalidity of Treaties if there was an error in the treaty , fraud, coercion of a representative of a State and coercion of a State by the threat of use of force. Greece will at the same time request compensation from the EU for the damage done to the country. The damage done, according to conservative estimates, is about the amount of the so-called debt. Article 41.3 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU mentions that ”Every person has the right to have the Union make good any damage caused by its institutions or by its servants in the performance of their duties…….” The cessation of paying interest that will occur with the denunciation of the Loan Facility Agreement and the compensation that will be given to Greece, will allow the country to take the necessary measures to repair the damages done and at the same time instigate development. Greece will also withdraw from the eurozone in order to implement beneficial economic policies that it cannot under eurozone rules. The proposed solution is not easy in its implementation. But it is much better than the erroneous policy followed today that is leading Greece, with mathematical accuracy, to disaster. And it is a positive sign that there is a political party supporting such an approach.
PROPOSAL FOR THE EU
In order that the EU functions effectively, it must be transformed so that it would have as sole priority the protection of the interests of the peoples of Europe and not of the bankers of Europe. Its inefficiency must be changed by the adoption of a new constitutional document to replace the violated Lisbon Treaty. The new document must not be drafted by the existing failed institutions of the EU. It must be drafted by movements of citizens of the Member States who will submit their proposals to a European Assembly composed of representatives of movements of citizens of the EU. The final document will be submitted, on behalf of the peoples of Europe, to the new EU institutions for implementation. In the in-between time, the EU will carry out only everyday business. With such a solution, the EU will stop destroying its members and intervening in a blatant way in third countries ,as was the case with the Ukraine.
PROPOSAL FOR HUMANITY
The deletion of the global debt which is about 600 trillion USD, will allow humanity to restart on a new and healthy basis. There exist many examples in history of debt deletion. From the ancient Greek Sisahtheia to the Jubilee of ancient Hebrew communities where every fifty years the debts among themselves were cancelled. Even during the 70’s the developed countries of the West deleted the debt of the non-aligned movement thus allowing the economic development of Yugoslavia. The only ones who will lose from the deletion of the global debt will be the banks, but the bankers will not go hungry as is a large part of earth’s population. Humanity as a whole will benefit because it will be able to restart on more sound principles.
For the implementation of the previously mentioned proposals, it is necessary to have politicians with imagination, vision and courage, politicians who care about progress of humanity and not about power. Such politicians do not exist today. But we have to invent and create them.
(*) Ambassador Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos is a member of the Political Secretariat of EPAM and a candidate for European Parliament.