Greek President Concludes Visit to Croatia, Speaks about Future of EU

By 7 February 2019

ZAGREB, February 7, 2019 - European integration is imperative and a duty, Greek President Prokopios Pavlopoulos said during a lecture at Zagreb University on Wednesday, adding that he advocates stronger EU integration.

"It is imperative to have European integration and it is a duty to the founding fathers, EU residents and the rest of humankind," Pavlopoulos said in his lecture "The necessity of European integration."

Pavlopoulos calls for the EU's greater economic, monetary and security integration and for a common European foreign policy that will ensure the EU's status as a global power.

"We have to build a Europe that won't have centrifugal but rather centripetal forces. One that will make people who join proud, rather than have eurosceptics," he underscored and added that Europe is no longer attractive, it isn't a welfare state and the principle of solidarity enshrined in the EU treaties is lacking.

"We have to make Europe attractive, as it was when countries wanted to join Europe," he said, adding that one of the reasons for Brexit was the concept of the EU is no longer attractive.

Pavlopoulos said that the founding fathers considered the European project to be more than just a common economic space and that it should be able to act globally in order to defend "fundamental rights: representative democracy and all human rights."

He said that the EU, which will have a global role, needs to be built on a federal model and that it is necessary to advocate and fight for representative democracy and human rights so that Europe can act "not just on behalf of its own people but for the world and humankind in general," which he considers to be "Europe's historic responsibility."

Pavlopoulos said that two key "pillars" are required for European integration: a common foreign and security policy and a common economic policy.

He said that the EU treaties provide a basis for a common foreign and security policy and that it is a shame that this does not exist in reality.

"We have focused on the economy" and at key moments "we weren't there for the people and humankind," he said claiming that at critical moments Europe did not have a foreign or security policy, citing the case of the Middle East.

Other powers are interested in the Middle East for geostrategic reasons while the EU, which would have been present for humanitarian reasons, didn't have its own policy, he said and added that "a lot of things could have been avoided" had the EU had an active policy in that area.

"Europe has to be a global power," President Pavlopoulos said, noting that there is no other power that can act on the principle of democracy and protection of human rights.

In order for the EU to be a global power, it is essential that the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy has greater powers required to clearly define the EU's foreign policy objectives.

Pavlopoulos stressed that the eurozone is "the heart of the European Union," and that greater integration cannot occur if a strong eurozone doesn't exist.

On Tuesday, Pavlopoulos met with President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and said then that Greece supports Croatia's accession to the eurozone. "We have monetary convergence but we don't have economic convergence," he said, describing this as a paradox.

"You can't have a strong currency without a strong economy which is why we need institutions," he said, stressing the need to provide the European Central Bank with greater powers and to establish a European Monetary Fund.

He criticised the lack of an institutional framework that would encompass eurozone member states, given that the Eurogroup consists of informal meetings of eurozone finance ministers.

The Eurogroup made some essential decisions during the crisis in Greece, but there are no rules on how it acts, he added.

"We need to have rules stating how the Eurogroup will function and for it not to be a club of ministers where decisions are made by those who are strong," he said and added that the Eurogroup shouldn't just work for those who want the euro and only help their economies, implying Germany's policy during the Greek crisis.

Pavlopuolos underscored that the European Central Bank should have more power so that the EU can cope with a new financial crisis and global challenges.

He advocates the establishment of the European Monetary Fund, underscoring that the International Monetary Fund's solutions in implementing its measures requires devaluating currencies, which is not possible in the eurozone.

The European Commission supports transforming the European Stabilisation Mechanism into the European Monetary Fund which would be under the control of the European Parliament. The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, has also expressed her support in this regard.

More news on the relations between Croatia and Greece can be found in the Politics section.