- The Washington Times - Monday, October 9, 2006

EU fatigue

One of Greece’s top government leaders is worried that Europe has grown weary of the ever-expanding European Union and might oppose the further opening to the Balkans, which Greek officials consider essential to the future of the alliance.

Theodore Skylakakis sees the “enlargement fatigue” taking two shapes: a reluctance by Europeans in the bloc to admit new members, and a frustration among many citizens in southeast European countries that are struggling to meet the demands for political and economic reforms in order to join.

Mr. Skylakakis, secretary-general for international economic relations and development cooperation in the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called the European Union “one of the greatest success stories of the past 60 years.”

“However, public opinion both in the member countries and in southeastern Europe is starting to show considerable signs of fatigue,” he told the Center for Strategic and International Studies on a Washington visit last week.

He cited “enlargement fatigue in the EU member countries and reform fatigue in some of the countries aspiring to join the union.”

Mr. Skylakakis said Greece is trying to deal with these problems by promoting closer economic cooperation among the 25 EU members and Turkey and six Balkan countries that are seeking membership.

“In order to overcome this fatigue and keep momentum going, we need closer economic cooperation, more reforms and a long-term commitment on building institutions that are at the heart of the European integration process,” he said.

Bulgaria and Romania are scheduled to join the European Union on Jan. 1 in what will be the sixth expansion since the bloc was created in 1951, originally as the European Coal and Steel Community. Ten countries joined in 2004, the largest expansion of the bloc. Greece has been a member since 1981.

Croatia, Macedonia and Turkey are categorized as “candidate countries,” meaning they have started the process of joining. Albania, Bosnia, Montenegro and Serbia are waiting to begin the process.

Mr. Skylakakis noted the long struggle of southeastern Europe to overcome ancient feuds and ethnic rivalries.

“The geopolitical map of our part of Europe — with its mountains and valleys, its seas and coastline, its islands and peninsulas — explains a lot about our different historic paths, our different but connecting cultures, the old scars and old scores that time and time again came to haunt us during the 20th century,” he said.

Typhoon relief

The U.S. ambassador in the Philippines thanked Filipinos for their aid to the American victims of Hurricane Katrina, as she announced the donation of $100,000 in relief supplies for the victims of a typhoon that struck parts of the Philippines last month.

“None of us can predict or prevent natural disasters, but we can stand together in humanitarian relief,” Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney said last week on a visit to a relief warehouse operated by the Philippine National Red Cross.

“The Philippine people stood by the American people in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and we wanted very much to do the same here as we saw so many of our friends and neighbors suffering from the impact of this typhoon.”

Mrs. Kenney and Richard J. Gordon, chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross, reviewed relief supplies provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The USAID provided blankets, mosquito nets, sleeping mats, water containers, hygiene kits and other supplies to help the estimated 6,000 families dislocated by the typhoon, which killed at least 98 persons and injured 80.

“In times of crisis, we all get together,” said Mr. Gordon, also a member of the Philippine Senate. “The United States and the American people have always been exceptional in the lives of people here. Today we are giving these items so people can live their lives once again with dignity.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com

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