Greek bad boys clean up their EU image

A 14 PER CENT devaluation of the currency is perhaps an unusual way of proving one's credentials. But by drastically lowering the parity of the drachma last weekend and vowing the join the single currency by 2001, Greece is starting to shed its reputation as the European Union's problem child.

Devaluation should place the previously overvalued drachma on an even keel for the required two-year participation in the exchange rate mechanism before membership of monetary union proper. And if the country can weather an immediate upward blip in prices, it is on course to meet the Maastricht criteria, if not this year then in 1999. Inflation is 4 per cent and falling, and the budget deficit is within hailing distance of the Maastricht ceiling of 3 per cent.

The repercussions of the drachma's entry into the ERM are unclear. In one sense, it further isolates Britain, along with Sweden and Norway, as grumpy Northern hold-outs against monetary union. But it is equally possible that the presence of another devaluation-pronecountry in Emu may reinforce doubts in Germany and its traditional hard-currency satellites about the wisdom of the enterprise. It is beyond argument, however, that it underlines the commitment to Europe of prime minister Costas Simitis, and his foreign minister, Theodore Pangalos.

"Europe is the main focus of Greek foreign policy," Mr Pangalos declared this week - an assertion that might sound strange to those schooled in the anti-European rhetoric of the former Socialist prime minister Andreas Papandreou, and the endless diplomatic warfare with Turkey that has made most of Europe rue the day in 1981 when Greece joined the then EEC.

The obsession with Turkey - on display again last weekend at Edinburgh when the EU agreed a compromise to permit the opening of negotiations with Cyprus - can still infuriate. "Pangalos is fine, very clever and very European," one of his colleagues remarked privately. "But then Turkey comes up, and it's like pressing a button."

Nothing grates more in Brussels than Greek use of its veto to advance the country's cause against Turkey; most lately its refusal to sanction a financial package for Ankara after the dispute over the Aegean island of Imia. The EU's failure to honour that commitment, as well as the continuing refusal to admit Turkey for membership, are the prime reasons for today's crisis between Ankara and the EU - a crisis into which it it has been in part dragged by Greek membership.

But in other respects, Greece is a reformed creature. Emu entry is but the most vivid symbol of Mr Simitis's determination to modernise the economy, 60 per cent of which is in state hands. And unlike Mr Papandreou, he no longer plays with fire in the Balkans.

Athens has realised that with the break-up of the Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia, it has become a major regional economic power with a GDP larger than the other Balkan countries combined. Greece may import goods from the EU, but the Balkans and Eastern Europe are good export markets. "There are economic reasons for us to work for peace," Mr Pangalos said.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea