February 6, 2014
by His Excellency Konstantinos Bikas, Ambassador of Greece to the UK
The Hellenic Presidency of the Council of Ministers of the European Union started on 1 January 2014, in the midst of Europe’s efforts to overcome the economic crisis, and with the debate intensifying ahead of the upcoming elections for the new European Parliament. Paramount in this debate is the need to promote growth and safeguard the European social model of democracy and rule of law – elements that until recently were taken for granted, but that have been put to the test by the crisis.
The period of the Hellenic Presidency will also be pivotal in Greece, at a time when the first signs of an exit from the crisis are becoming discernable: A crisis that has cost the Greek economy a cumulative recession of 25% of GDP, with unemployment rates mushrooming, particularly for the young. Thanks to the persistent efforts and sacrifices of the Greek people, Greece has taken major strides in the direction of fiscal health, showing the best structural – that is, cyclically adjusted – primary surplus in the Eurozone, at over 6% of GDP. There are good grounds for optimism that the six months of the Hellenic Presidency will coincide with the recovery of Greece’s real economy.
Faced with the challenges posed by the crisis, Greece will exercise the Presidency of the Union by adopting policy and thematic priorities dictated by the needs of the citizens of the Union.
Elections for a new European Parliament during the first semester of 2014 is yet another factor that requires the Hellenic Presidency be a frontloaded one.
EU’s biggest challenge is to foster growth, competitiveness and jobs and to ensure stability and prosperity for all; for this the EU has to reaffirm its mission at the hearts and minds of its citizens. In this context, the EU is called to safeguard financial stability through the deepening of the EMU, to boost growth-enhancing economic policies aiming at fighting unemployment and to restore lending to the economy.
Further integration of EU-Eurozone
Tackling the financial and economic crisis in the Eurozone and forwarding the new EMU architecture will certainly remain priorities for the EU rotating presidencies of the coming years, including the Greek one.
Our second priority is to deepen the European and Eurozone economic governance institutions and shore up the common currency. Special care will be taken to further promote the institutional completion of the banking union, a necessary evolution so that in the future the link between bank obligations and the sovereign be cut. Trilogues have already started so that by the end of this term of the European Parliament the Bank Resolution Mechanism is in place.
At the same time, we will need to continue working on the foundations for the institutional structure that will enhance transparency, accountability and representation for the whole exercise. This dimension entails particular importance as an answer to the demographic and fiscal crisis of the European welfare state.
The third priority is the protection of the common European borders, a basic pillar of which is effective confronting of illegal migration. There is already a close and ongoing cooperation with the European Commission and all the Mediterranean countries of the European South on finding the best possible solutions.
Furthermore, the Greek Presidency will concentrate its efforts at highlighting the positive aspects of a comprehensive migration management to the benefit of boosting growth. At the same time , action is envisaged to tackle the problems arising from illegal migration in the economy, the social cohesion and the political stability, especially of those countries mostly affected by it.
The Hellenic Presidency’s horizontal priority consists in the development of a comprehensive maritime policy that promotes blue growth, competitiveness of European shipping, competitiveness and exploitation of European ports, maritime employment, tourism, alternative forms of energy, fisheries, maritime spatial planning and policies recognizing and incorporating the “insular” dimension.
Finally, the Hellenic Presidency is already in close collaboration with the Italian Presidency – which will cover the second half of 2014 – as we work to coordinate priorities and actions that will make 2014 a Mediterranean Year for the EU.
The Hellenic Presidency’s objectives are ambitious, but feasible, and our partners may rest assured that we will pursue them effectively and with resolve.
Author : European Movement UK