Dimitris Keridis is a Professor of International Politics at Panteion University of Athens. He is a senior advisor at Konstantinos G. Karamanlis Foundation and deputy director of the Institute of International Relations in Athens. Since 2002 he has been directing the annual Olympia Summer Academy in Politics and International Studies and since 2009 the Navarino Network, a public policy think-tank based in Thessaloniki.

He has been Constantine Karamanlis Associate Professor in Hellenic and European Studies at the Fletcher School, Tufts University, director of the Kokkalis Foundation in Athens as well as head of the Kokkalis Program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

Professor Keridis’ latest book in English is “The Historical Dictionary of Modern Greece”, to be reprinted and updated. His recent books in Greek include a monograph on “Nationalism, Ethnic Conflicts and International Relations: Theory and Practice in the Balkans” and “Constantine G. Karamanlis and the Foreign Press”. Author of many articles in Greek and English, Dimitris Keridis is also a regular TV political commentator.

Greek News Agenda* asked Professor Keridis to comment on the Europe of different speeds concept, the influence of upcoming elections in European countries on the current negotiations concerning the review of the Greek adjustment programme, as well as to evaluate Greece’s Course in the EU, the Greek exceptionalism discourse, and the impact of Brexit and the Trump Presidency on the European project:

20 years ago Wolfgang Schaeuble proposed a Europe of different speeds. According to some observers, this European core vs. European periphery reasoning reemerges on the agenda of certain policy actors. Would you like to comment on this approach?

Europe has accepted this logic a long time ago. After all, some EU countries decided to stay out of the EMU or the Schengen system. The current difficulties faced by the periphery of Southern Europe reinforce this logic. However, it is something easier said than done: the key country in this discussion is obviously Italy. Until now, Italy was a committed euro-federalist and the country was too big to be ignored from the inner circle. With Italy in, there is no point talking about excluding other laggards, i.e. Greece. The problem will arise when Italy itself stops being a committed euro-federalist and opts out. This will provide the opening to the North for a more exclusive inner circle without Greece and others.

2017 will be a critical year, with elections in the Netherlands, France and Germany. How does this fact influence the current negotiations over the review of the Greek adjustment programme and Greek/European debt management in general?

And in Italy, in all likelihood. The Greek public debt has the peculiarity of being mostly owed to states rather than to private financiers. As a result, the issue of the Greek debt is highly politicized and the resolution of the Greek crisis passes through the politics of Greece’s EU partners and creditors. Western politics in general and the politics of most EU countries in particular are going through a populist-nationalist phase, as a result of the 2008 economic crisis, that makes the resolution of the Greek problem harder as the support for more help to Greece diminishes. There is some hope for Europeanists in the face of Schulz and Macron but there are many more dark clouds on the horizon.

How do you evaluate Greece’s course in the EU so far? What is your opinion about the Greek exceptionalism discourse? 

Greece has benefited enormously from the EU. However, the EU is no panacea for Greece’s underdevelopment. For example, in the period between 1950-1980 Greece’s growth rate was 5% annually. Since 1980, during the period of Greece’s membership in the EU, the rate dropped to 1%. There must be an open and honest discussion of what went wrong during the last 35 years.

I am not a big believer in cultural exceptionalism; the reason for Greece’s falling behind has more to do with specific policy choices and political decisions that can and should be reversed. The “exceptionalism” discourse absolves the political class and the Greek voter of their responsibility. And by the way, all Greeks are not the same: there were 40%, not a small number, who, despite all the propaganda and misinformation, voted “yes” in the referendum. They and many more want a normal, unexceptional Greece.

Do you think the new Trump administration and Brexit are going to influence the European project and / or issues of security in South East Europe? 

Yes and not in a positive way. However, Brexit was an accident waiting to happen. The unity or disunity of the EU will partially depend on the future course of Britain outside the EU. If Britain suffers, the EU will draw closer together.

Trump has sent a lot of wrong signals although his ministers of defense and foreign affairs seem to be more traditionalist in their support for wanting a united Europe. The security of Southeastern Europe seems to be on the back burner of America’s attention as the new administration seems obsessed with Islam and the Middle East on the one hand and economic protectionism and Mexico and China on the other.

* interview by Florentia Kiortsi