Rallis, George: Greece and EEC – choice of necessity?
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece
World War ΙΙ forced the peoples of Western Europe and their leaders to realize that armed conflict can settle no European dispute, but creates only bigger and more complex problems. It also forced them to realize that through armed conflict, political and economic supremacy gravitates toward other geographical regions, thereby limiting the role of a fragmented Europe to that of a dependent, marginal and weakened factor in international affairs.
From Division to Unity
The faith of western European nations in the value of traditional democracy as a safeguard for human dignity and as a framework for the pursuit of moral development and material prosperity by the individual, was instrumental in convincing them that their moral and material bonds weigh more heavily than their differences. In conjunction with an obvious need to survive culturally and economically in the face of super-power hypertrophy, this faith forced the western European nations, early after the war, to look for a pattern of collaboration, which would assure them of economic autonomy, as well as preserve their common historical and cultural heritage.
The quest for such a pattern of collaboration went through various stages of lesser associations and multilateral agreements such as BENELUX, the European Free Trade Area, the European Coal and Steel Community, the European Free Trade Association, and others. These were expressions of surviving historical antagonisms or traditional ties and led, in turn, to an understanding that only a more comprehensive arrangement could ensure advancement of the collective economic interest and serve, at the same time, as a nucleus for the creation of a politically united democratic Europe.
It was, thus, under the pressure of a historical necessity which became more obvious with every passing day, that the six states of Central Europe – West Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Holland and Luxemburg- were led, on March 25 1975, to the conclusion of the Treaty of Rome, by which the European Economic Community was established. This treaty also became the starting point of a united Europe, by stipulating that «the signing parties are determined to lay the foundations of an increasingly close unity among the peoples of Europe».
But, how were the immediate as well as the long-term objectives of the Treaty of Rome to be realized? Through what procedures and mechanisms?
Past experience had shown that complex systems of customs barriers, protective tariffs and trade or industrial antagonism had inhibited the movement of agricultural and industrial products, prevented a fall in production costs and impeded wider dissemination -and exploitation- of technological innovation. With the free circulation of capital and labor confined within tight national boundaries, there could not exist a large market, which would lead to the economic development of Europe. There was, at the same time, an awareness of the fact that designing, funding, and implementing regional development programs, as well as pursuing a balanced economic progress between central and regional areas -so that an increasing number of people can participate in the production and consumption of goods- could have little or no success as long as it remained within the confines of national economies.
Starting from this diagnosis of the causes of economic drag -which had contributed sο much to political antagonism and suspicion in the past- the founding members of the European Community proceeded to set up mechanisms, that would permit faster rates of economic growth and closer political ties among its members.
Thus, customs dues and quantitative limitations in the flow of goods were removed, free movement of capital, labor and technology was ensured, and the Community budget was organized on the basis of proportionate contributions by member states. This enabled the establishment of a common agricultural policy to support the prices of agricultural products and improve the financial position of farmers by means of an Agricultural Fund. It also helped finance regional development projects and social reconstruction programs, by means of appropriate financial institutions, such as the Regional Development Fund and the Social Fund.