On January 1st, Greece assumed the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the fifth time. On this occasion, Diplomacy & Trade asked the Greek Ambassador to Hungary, Dimitris Yannakakis to summarize the program of the Presidency. He reminds that it was during the previous Greek Presidency, in 2003, that the EU finalized its decision to add ten new member states, including Hungary.
Our new Presidency comes at a crucial transitional phase for Europe. The economic crisis has led to restrictive fiscal policies, aiming to safeguard financial stability and consolidate public finances. The duration and intensity of the crisis, recession and unemployment have impacted on social cohesion in a number of EU countries, including Greece. They have undermined the trust of a significant number of Europeans in the EU’s ability to promote economic growth and high employment
The challenge for the EU is to be seen by European citizens as ensuring prosperity and stability. With that aim, the Greek Presidency will concentrate on several priorities:
(1) Promoting growth, employment and cohesion
With unemployment at record rates in most EU member-states, particularly among young people, and with recession a fact of life or a threat to a number of European countries, economic growth will be a matter of overriding importance for the Greek Presidency. Growth must lead to the creation of jobs, the reinforcement of social cohesion and, ultimately, of EU cohesion. Jobless growth will simply not have the same effects.
Initiatives and actions for halting unemployment and boosting job creation are necessary in order to avert the danger of jobless growth. Fiscal consolidation should be coupled with the implementation of a substantially enhanced and realistic ‘Compact for Growth and Jobs’ that can be transformed into a diverse European investment program, modeled after the cohesion policy.
(2) Further integration of the EU-Eurozone
Dealing with the financial and economic crisis in the Eurozone will remain a priority for the EU long after the Greek presidency. The stability of the common currency will have to be safeguarded through the deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union and the coordination of national fiscal and economic policies. Progress will be needed in the following sectors:
(a) Promotion of the banking union, by building upon the agreement at the December European Council. This will improve the functioning of the EMU and, in the light of past developments, is a prerequisite for increased confidence in the European economy.
(b) Agreement on the principles of the reinforced budgetary and economic integration frameworks. We must ensure the effective implementation and further integration of the new EU / Eurozone economic governance mechanisms. Fiscal and economic policy coordination should enhance synergies between member-states, in a way friendly to growth and jobs.
(c) Special importance will be attached to the social dimension of the EMU.
Clearly, these must be done in a way, which respects the single market and the special situation of countries which are outside the eurozone, like Hungary.
(3) Migration, border management and mobility
Increased flows of illegal immigration into Europe, in a period of economic crisis, place an extra burden. This falls mainly on states that are located on the EU’s external borders and are already heavily affected by recession and unemployment and require solidarity measures to assist them. The Greek Presidency will try to highlight the positive perspectives of comprehensive migration management, including better border management, readmission, fighting human trafficking and the implementation of the Common Asylum Policy.
Since mobility in an area of freedom, security and justice will continue to be a major objective for the EU, it is necessary to link the external dimension of migration with related policies such as visa policies, strategic partnerships, EU competitiveness and a common migration policy, capable of contributing to the implementation of the Europe 2020 Agenda.
(4) Greece will introduce a horizontal theme that will run across all three afore-mentioned priority areas, namely EU maritime policies.
As a traditionally maritime country, Greece believes that marine and maritime activities hold great potential and opportunity for the EU economy. Europe has strategic interests that justify bringing to the fore and dealing with both the security and growth dimensions of maritime policies, including energy.
Our objective will be the adoption of a text on Maritime Policy/Strategy at the June 2014 European Council highlighting two dimensions: security and growth.
Europe is holding elections this coming May, and this means that the Hellenic Presidency will coincide with the great debate on the future of Europe: the debate about the need to safeguard our common values, the European social model, and institutional equality amongst member states. We are confident that this is going to be a particularly busy and constructive semester for the European institutions, European citizens and our united Europe.
And as our motto says, united we sail further!