In the very next weeks, Greece will have to negotiate its exit from the (8-year long) succession of Adjustment Programmes its economy - and society; and political system - have had to labour under. In the same near future, the grandstanding of EU-wide “Future of Europe” negotiations will have to get started - somehow.
How these two tracks will run in parallel is one thing; of still more interest is how Greek priorities could co-ordinate with the normal run of things for the EU. An easy way to assess this is to visit the “Recommendations” of the TEPSA network, traditionally presented to every rotating EU Presidency just before it gets the helm of the Union.
his time around, the Pre-Presidency Conference of TEPSA (it brings together some thirty Institutes and Research Centres from around Europe - the Greek member is EPLO/EKEME) met in Vienna, at the Institut fuer Hoehere Studien. The fact that the Conference took place just days after the seismic shock of an Italian anti-systemic Government taking office made things more complicated than usual - but the usual conflict issues were there for everybody to see.
But first, one should be warned: the TEPSA Recommendations are mainly the distillate of Europeanist correctness, slightly bent so as to accommodate the national (or regional) priorities of the host country - in our case Austria, a MittelEuropa jewel and quite close to Visegrad sentiment - that is to implement them.
This having been said, a first area of interest was defense. There, “the greatest challenge in 2018 lies with the Member States”. Which means that the tasks undertaken under the recent PESCO/CARD arrangements – the Permanent Structured Cooperation and the Coordinated Annual Review of Defense, that is - would in fact need mobilization of national assets. (From that rather innocuously-framed priorities, the distance to a looming conflict situation in the Aegean is quite large, indeed).
The second area may seem of more direct relevance to Greece: migration, where “the Presidency [should] coordinate efforts fo a comprehensive management of migration”. But not too much optimism is allowed to surface. “The prevention of illegal crossing” is the main objective to be addressed, along with “support to persons in need of protection outside the EU”. Which means that realities of refugee/migrant flows through the Aegean are clearly out of the central priorities, since “prevention of crossing” can in no way include push-backs at sea.
As to the economic issues, they have never stopped being the centre of interest of EU policies. The main issue addressed is the negotiation of the 2021-27 Multiannual Financial Framework , i.e. the EU Budget in mid-term perspective. Here, with the financial impact of the UK leaving the EU and the financial needs of emerging areas such as refugee and migration flows, border control, external action and security and defense so the strain to be experienced in more traditional forms of spending – such as Cohesion Policy funding – may prove unpleasantly relevant for a net beneficiary country like Greece.
Last , but by no means least, Brexit negotiations threaten to drain away much needed political support to any positive-sounding “Future of Europe” plans.