The European orientation of Greece preexisted the linking of the country's path to European integration efforts within the European Community / Union. However, it implemented with the submission of the application for connection to the newly established European Economic Community (EEC), in June 1959, an application that led to the signing of Greece Association Agreement - EC in June 1961. This agreement, which essentially was the first step towards Greece's accession to the European Community, "froze" when dictatorship was established in Greece (April 1967) and was reactivated after the restoration of democracy (July 1974).
Greek government and especially the Prime Minister K. Karamanlis pursued the country's integration into the European Community as a full member. On 12th June 1975, K. Karamanlis addressed a letter at the president of the Council of the European Community, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ireland G. Fitzgerald, which was an application for full membership.
The reasons for which Greece chose full accession to the Community can be summed up as follows:
- Considered the Community as the institutional framework within which could stabilize the democratic political system and institutions.
- Pursued to strengthen its independence and its position in the regional and international system and the "bargaining power", especially in relation to Turkey, which appeared to be the major threat to Greece after the invasion and occupation of part of Cyprus (July 1974 ). Furthermore Greece pursued to loosen its strong dependence which had developed after the war by the United States (US).
- Considered the accession into the Community as a powerful factor that would contribute to the development and modernization of the Greek economy and society.
- Desired, as a European country, to be "present" and influence the processes of European integration and the European model, in which this process could result.
The first reaction of the European Community to the Greek application was initially expressed by the European Commission (European Commission) which according to the Article 237 of the Treaty of Rome, had to state its "opinion" on the country's application to join the Community. The Commission announced its "opinion" on 28th January 1976. The Commission, while emphasized that there should be "clearly positive response" to Greece's request for membership, proposed establishing pre-accession transition period before full institutional integration, in order to make the necessary financial reforms.
Commission’s proposal was finally rejected, after the intervention of Prime Minister K. Karamanlis to the governments of nine member states, and particularly France and Germany. Thus, in July 1976 began accession negotiations, which ended in May 1979 with the signing of the Accession Treaty in Athens (at Zappeion). The Greek Parliament ratified the Accession Act of Greece to the European Community on 28th June 1979.
The participation of Greece in the European Community / Union in the period 1981-2002 could be divided into three main sub-periods: the first, from 1981-1985, the second between 1985-1995 and the third from 1996 until 2002.
The first period is characterized by strong doubts concerning certain serious aspects of European integration. At the same time, pursued to review the country's position in the Community by establishing a "special regime" of relations and regulations. For the above reasons, Greece submitted in March 1982 a Memorandum requesting additional divergence from implementing certain community policies as well as additional financial support for the restructuring of the Greek economy. The European Commission has recognized as valid only the second request which was actually met with the approval, in 1985, the Integrated Mediterranean Programmes (IMP). The importance of IMP was much greater than the additional funds that were approved for Greece, which were introduced to develop structural policy from the EU, which emerged in 1988 in the new structural policy, the first “Delors package".
During this period, Greece was particularly cautious in general issues of European integration, and in particular the efforts and plans for further integration in the institutional, political and defence sector.
In the second period of participation, Greece put forward in the EU a policy, which was characterized by the gradual adoption of stronger pro-integration positions. Especially from 1988 onwards, began to support the "federal" integration model, as well as the development of a common policy in new areas (education, health, environment), the strengthening of supranational institutions (Commission and Parliament) and the development of a common foreign and security policy of the Union. On the other hand, however, inconsistencies still remained, both in the financial field, concerning the country diverging from the average "community" development level, and the political field, concerning the problem of the FYROM name, which was defused by the signing of the Interim Agreement.
Moreover, since 1987, Greece focused at the prospect of accession of Cyprus to the European Community. For this purpose, supported the Nicosia Government in the latter's application for membership in June 1990.
The third period of Greece's participation in the Community / Union, launched in 1996 and is characterized by the commitment to the idea and the process of European integration and the deepening of integration in all areas, in line with the federal model. It is also characterized by higher financial and social convergence effort to achieve the "convergence criteria" of the Maastricht, which ensured the country's participation as a full member in the single currency (euro) and the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) from 1st January 2002.
The fourth EU Greek Presidency (first half 2003) was Greece’s huge success, partly for that period, the largest expansion of united Europe (10 new Member States) occurred.