In recent decades the issue of relations between Greece and the EEC/EU has held a central position in the debate on the role of the country in the wider European family. Greece’s path towards a united Europe began on 8 June 1959, when it lodged an application for association with the EEC. Greece’s application was approved by the EEC Foreign Ministers on 27 July 1959 and on 10 September 1959 negotiations commenced between representatives of Greece and the EEC which led to the signing of the Association Agreement in the Trophy Hall of the Hellenic Parliament on 9 July 1961. The Association Agreement entered into force on 2 November 1962, having first been ratified by the Hellenic Parliament on 28 February 1962.
It should be stressed that Greece was the first country to sign an Association Agreement with the newly established European Economic Community.
Greece’s progress towards joining a united Europe was suspended on 21 April 1967 due to the abolition of democratic institutions by a military junta. On 14 August 1974, a few days after the restoration of democracy in Greece, the country was witnessed the second wave of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. The decision taken by the then Prime Minister, Constantine Karamanlis, was not to respond with war but to exert political and economic pressure on Turkey while at the same time implementing a particularly costly programme to bolster Greek military capacity in order to achieve and maintain a credible balance of power in order to deter Turkish aggression, which at that time was particularly intense.
It is clear that if during the period 1974-1975 Karamanlis had opted to unleash a retaliatory war against Turkey, regardless of its outcome, Greece and Turkey would have been drawn into an extended period of conflict. Consequently, Greece’s accession to the EEC would have been postponed or aborted and the impact on Greek political institutions would have been extremely destabilising.
On 22 August 1974 a government of national unity led by Constantine Karamanlis lodged a memorandum with the President of the EC Council of Ministers requesting immediate reactivation of the Association Agreement. This request was accepted, allowing the Karamanlis government one year later to lodge an application for Greece’s accession as a full member of the European Community.
On 9 February 1976, the Council of Ministers requested that the procedure for Greece’s full accession go ahead despite reservations on the part of the Commission, which requested a pre-accession period. Thus, a few months later on 27 July 1976 negotiations opened between Greece and the European Community. These negotiations were successfully concluded on 21 December 1978.
On 28 May 1979, the Treaty on Greece’s accession to the European Community was signed in Athens in the Zappeion Hall, followed on 28 June 1979 by ratification of the Accession Treaty by the Hellenic Parliament. Two years later on 1 January 1981 the Accession Treaty entered into force.