The European Parliament and Greece's accession to the European Community

Briefing 29-01-2021

Enlargement of the European Communities (EC) to the south represented one of the most profound changes in European politics of the 1980s. It dramatically altered political, economic and social structures not only in the EC and the then Member States, but also in the three accession countries: Greece, Portugal and Spain. This year marks the 40th anniversary of Greece's accession to the European Communities (now Union). Greece became the tenth EC Member State in 1981, following its transformation from an authoritarian to a democratic system of government. Importantly, Greece’s EC accession was connected with the consolidation of the country’s emerging democratic system, starting with the transitional government under Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis from July 1974 on. Although in the mid-1970s it was not formally involved in deciding on EC membership, the European Parliament saw itself politically obliged to discuss the major guidelines of EC accession and to assert the need for democratic conditions in Greece. Against this background, this Briefing looks at the democratisation process in Greece and the country's EC accession from the perspective of the European Parliament. First, it demonstrates that the Parliament demanded the fulfilment of fundamental democratic criteria before accepting any rapprochement between Greece and the Community. Resting on the basic understanding of democracy, the core demand was the holding of free and fair parliamentary elections. Second, it shows that, following the establishment of democratic structures, the European Parliament quickly developed relations with Greece, for example with the Greek Parliament in the form of a joint parliamentary committee. These relations served to support the accession process by discussing and preparing the baselines of EC enlargement.