Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Venizelos presents the logo of the Hellenic Presidency of the Council of the European Union
E. VENIZELOS: Secretary Generals, Ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen, I
would like to welcome you to this event in view of the Hellenic
Presidency of the Council of the European Union, which is the fifth
presidency that the Hellenic Republic is undertaking, since its
accession to the then European Communities.
This presentation mainly relates to our communication strategy and the presentation of the logo that will accompany all our activities during the first six months of 2014.
By way of introduction to the communication strategy of the Presidency, I would like to remind you of the political, national framework that we have decided on for the Hellenic Presidency.
The first six months of 2014 is a very important period for Greece. We aim at making very clear the positive aspects of our exit from the crisis, after a very long and strenuous period of great sacrifices from the Greek people.
Since 2010, we have been making a huge effort, which has cost to the Greek economy 25% of our GDP, 35-40% of disposable income, 27% unemployment among the general population and, unfortunately, 60% among young people up to 24 years old.
Therefore, this is the time to make a change, to make a turn to leave the crisis, to exit the crisis and the memorandum. It is a time for a real recovery of the Greek economy. We would like to present a fiscal deficit, which as of this year will be lower than 3%.
This is the time for us to present a public deficit that is really sustainable, not only because there has been a great decrease since the initiatives of 2012, but because there has been a real restructuring in relation to its average duration, 6.5 years, average interest rate, which is low, 2.2%, the grace period, the maturation of the bonds and the installments of the debt.
Of course, Greek people experience this crisis at an individual level, at the level of their family income. And we would like the semester of our Presidency to become a symbol for them of this recovery, of this turn.
It is not easy to achieve, but it is very important for Greece not to appear in the European family and globally as a country in a crisis, but as an equal partner, a member-state of the European Union and of the Eurozone; a sovereign, independent and proud state that suffers the effects of the crisis, but which has the right to hope for a recovery of its position.
During these six months, Greece will be representing a European Union that must show its commitment to great values; the first of them being solidarity, the European social state, the value of a European model for competitiveness and growth that will safeguard the peoples of Europe and of course the Greek people from a repetition of this crisis.
It is therefore very important to make this progress clear in actual practice and to send this message towards Greek society and abroad.
Our European partners very often speak with respect about the sacrifices of the Greek people. They show respect for the effort that has been made and is still being sustained in Greece. This is Greek’s success; but we would like it to also be credited to Europe, especially during the first six months of 2014, which is the period of preparation for the European elections.
This crisis has shown the need to bridge the gap between the description of the European institutions, the description of the functioning of the European Union according to the treaties, and the European reality, which inside the Eurozone is very different. This is a gap that needs to be bridged.
And the bridging should start from an extensive debate about the necessary institutional changes. It is a happy coincidence that Greece is going to hold the Presidency of the European Union during this very important six-month period for the restoration of order and recovery from the crisis.
What is happening in the Eurozone is not what the Treaty of Lisbon describes. As I said earlier, the next six months of the Presidency will be the six months of a Pan-European debate in view of the election of the new European Parliament, the new Presidency of the European Commission and of the European Commission.
During these six months, a number of new European institutions will be under preparation, such as the High Commissioner and the Representative of the Council.
Therefore, all of these have emerged as a need for a new narrative around Europe; a narrative that brings forward the fundamental principles and values that have made the European effort able to thrive, as a token of European voluntarism.
But now it is time for us to discuss equality, rule of law, fundamental rights, plurality; to discuss a Europe that has nothing to do with xenophobic and racist attitudes.
We need to speak again, to discuss again a Europe of culture, a Europe that is conscious of its history, a Europe that is a community and a society of peace, democracy, prosperity, synthesis, cohesion and solidarity.
And therefore, we need during this six-month period to deal with the new waves of euro-skepticism. They have nothing to do with the traditional conservative, extreme right or radical forms of euro-skepticism.
This is the six-month period during which the European endeavour, the effort towards European integration, requires a new legitimization among the peoples of Europe, among the European societies. And we are really happy that fate has dictated that Greece, which is the great laboratory of the crisis in Europe, should be at the helm of the European Union, to be in the Presidency of the Council.
It is very important that we should address every citizen and especially the young, the young generation who are afraid that they are going to be the victims of the crisis. It is for Europe, it is for Greece to undertake every effort to avoid the threat of a lost generation. We need a young generation with self-esteem and self-confidence, which is worthy of its abilities, which should be able to face the potential of Europe.
So, the objective of our communication strategy during the six months is quite simple. We are looking forward to a Hellenic Presidency that will promote Greece as a regular member-state, as an equal member-state of the European Union. And we hope that this six-month period is going to be a European success.
We want a successful Hellenic presidency, with a Greek identity. We want the Hellenic Presidency of the European Union which will present its basic priorities to the benefit of all European citizens.
We are fully aware that the rotating Presidency of the European Union has limited responsibilities, because of the standing presidencies, both of the Council and of the Foreign Affairs Council and of the Eurogroup. Nevertheless, the Presidency of the General Affairs Council and all of the other Councils plays an important institutional role within the European structures.
Therefore, at our level we intend to act responsibly and realistically, in order to show that the Hellenic Presidency relates to all European citizens; to promote the democratic effort, to promote an image of Greece which is balanced and fair.
We don’t want to hide reality. We don’t want to cover up the problems. We don’t want to beautify the facts. But we don’t want to do injustice to our country. We want to promote the achievements, to gain respect for the sacrifices, the exit from the crisis to be obvious.
We want this new narrative not to be just a speech, just words, but to be an integrated European strategy for restructuring; because the success of this effort is going to be a European success.
This important communication objective will lead the Presidency, which is going to be European in its content, austere in its implementation and effective.
“European” means that the thematic priorities are going to be imposed by the needs of the citizens of the European Union; thematic priorities which relate to common problems and which promote the need to be dealt with jointly by the member-states and the peoples of Europe.
Thematic priorities that are built collectively within the framework of the trio - we avoid the term “troika” nowadays - the Presidency trio, therefore, which will promote the European effort in the best possible manner.
Sometimes we don’t like this framework. In our view, according to us it might be conservative, difficult, inflexible, ineffective, but there is nothing comparable to the European framework and there is nothing safer for the people of Greece and the other peoples of Europe than this European framework.
I should add at this point that the Hellenic Presidency is called upon during these first six months of 2014, and this is a very happy coincidence that the second semester the Presidency will be undertaken by the Italian Presidency. So two countries of the South, two countries that are Mediterranean, that have established a partnership between them; therefore the two 2014 presidencies, the Hellenic and the Italian Presidencies, as we have always said at every meeting with the Italian government, this will create a Mediterranean year, an Mediterranean Presidency of the Union, which will transfer the focus to the Mediterranean, to the South, to the Southern neighborhood.
We said that this is going to be an austere Presidency, meaning that it will respond to a requirement by every citizen to change the way that public funds are managed. Greece, which is making a huge effort towards fiscal consolidation, should show at every opportunity that it respects its citizens, who contribute to the consolidation of our finances.
Therefore, we will use the existing infrastructure, the existing resources; the human resources of the Foreign Ministry and of the state sector.
The Presidency, as measure, it will use the existing potential, the existing know-how, without any unnecessary spending. We want this Presidency to be effective in its implementation, which means that we will overcome the obstacles, we will manage the crisis, we will be able to promote compromises; we will show that Greece is present in European politics and in global policies. We will not boast, but at the same time we will not underestimate the abilities of Greece, because Greece has a multiplicity of identities. It is a European country, a country of the European South, a Mediterranean country, a Balkan state, a country which maintains traditional bonds with the Black Sea and with the Arab world.
This is value added in my view, also for the European Union.
I would like to remind you of the priorities of our Presidency, which are closely linked to our communication strategy. The priorities are based on the needs of the European citizens and of the European Union. They are not imposed by European bureaucracy, but by the European societies. They promote the usefulness and the importance of the European Union as the best way to deal with such problems, and of course they highlight the role of the Hellenic Presidency.
Our first priority, let me remind you, is the priority of all European peoples and countries: Growth, job creation, safeguarding the social dimension of the European social state, which should go beyond its fiscal and economic crisis. Without focusing on the economy, without a model for competitiveness and growth, without invested capital, without job creation, there is no future, there is no narrative.
Our priority is to further deepen the economic governance institution, both of the Eurozone and of the EU-28, so that each European citizen should feel safe. And in relation to this, the great challenge of the six months is the promotion of the Banking Union. It is therefore very important, even further than the monitoring mechanism for systemic banks, beyond the restructuring of the banks, to promote a European mechanism for the guarantee of deposits; because Greek citizens, European citizens, need to feel equally safe in relation to the protection of their savings, of their deposits.
At the same time, we aim at protecting the common European borders, to manage jointly the migration flows, to safeguard mobility and proceed to a fair distribution of burdens among member-states. And in this case, the European South, the coastal countries, have much to say. Our recent collaboration with Italy and Malta is quite characteristic.
There are horizontal issues and our horizontal priority is an integrated maritime policy from which a number of initiatives will derive. Blue growth, tourism, alternative energy sources, fisheries, the spatial planning of the seas, the implementation of the UN Treaty on the Law of the Sea in the Mediterranean and the implementation of the results of the recent study that Commissioner Damanaki has presented.
The priorities of the previous Hellenic Presidency, of 2003, the Thessaloniki Agenda for the European, or rather the Euroatlantic perspective of the Western Balkans is already integrated within the European policies.
And therefore we are very happy to see that as a Presidency, 11 years later we see that the old initiatives of 2003 are underway. This means starting negotiations with Serbia, the Euroatlantic perspective of all the countries of our wider region of the Western Balkans. Whatever problems exist, they are not bilateral; they are European problems that are going to be resolved through the implementation of the Copenhagen Criteria, through good neighborly relations and respect for international law.
PRESENTATION OF THE PRESIDENCY LOGO
We now come to the presentation of the logo. The Presidency’s logo is very important, because it is the Presidency’s hallmark.
This hallmark will accompany and certify our every action. It will accompany every event that happens within the framework of our Presidency. I think it sets out in a very clear manner our basic communication strategy for a Greek European Presidency.
More specifically, we want this logo to be simple, spare and comprehensive. Simple in design, but rich in substance and messages, as entailed by the Hellenic sense of proportion, as well as by our relationship to symbolism.
Simple and substantial, just as we want the Greek Presidency to be, to the benefit of all European citizens.
Second, we wanted a logo that is European and has a clear Hellenic hallmark. A logo that points up the European Union in what we like to believe is a creative manner.
You will be the judge. Hellenic, which alludes to Hellenic forms, to Hellenic colours. Always with reference to the sea. The sea as the fundamental element of the Hellenic identity, as well as of European history.
The sea as the horizontal priority of our Presidency, but also as a factor for growth, for the creation of new jobs and prospects for European peoples, for European economies.
Third, we want a logo that reminds everyone of the European narrative that united us after World War II, after disasters and reversals. The narrative that says – because we have to remember the fundamental things – that in this European family, it benefits us all to move ahead together, sometimes under normal, calm conditions, sometimes in conditions of crisis.
The European Union and the Eurozone in particular are institutionally designed for normal conditions of temperature and pressure. The latest experience of the crisis, from 2008 on, showed that we need European institutions capable of reacting in a timely and effective manner to the challenges of crises.
So it is very, very important that this be expressed by the Greek Presidency’s logo.
Fourth, we wanted a logo that points up the semi-circle. The semi-circle that represents Parliament and the ancient theatre. The conservatory. The semi-circular symbol of the womb that gave birth to democracy, free thought, the conflict of ideas, but also, in the final analysis, European institutional culture.
The semi-circle is also a bridge linking yesterday with today, the ancient with the modern. So the semi-circle is very important as an element of the complex European identity, given that it evokes democracy, freedom of thought and speech, and thus a fundamental element of European legal and political culture: representative democracy and parliamentarianism. Especially now, when we are talking about the need to redress the democratic deficit; now, when we are talking about the need for the re-legitimization of the European Union and the course towards European integration, the semi-circle is of very great significance.
Fifth, we wanted a logo that is optimistic; a realistic note of optimism that we all need in Greece and in Europe in general, as well, without ignoring what has happened or the problems that exist or the difficult path we have before us.
But a note of optimism is needed. The Greeks must exercise the right to optimism. This means that we can gain the position that is our historical right, but mainly based on the potential of the Greek economy and Greek society.
So it is in our hands – the hands of every citizen individually, as well as all together – to do better. Better for the coming generations, and mainly for the young throughout Europe, and particularly in the European south, because, as I said earlier, they are suffering disproportionately from the repercussions of the crisis.
So into this logo we want to compress all these messages and at the same time have it be spare and easy to ‘read’. We loosed this Gordian knot with the help of our technical advisers, and thus we present to you today the solution we arrived at.
It is important that I tell you that this solution was found with the least possible expenditure, with great assistance from the Foreign Ministry’s services, with the assistance of the company Beetroot, which helped us design the Greek Presidency’s ‘brand’. But mainly through the hard work and thought put in by public administration personnel.
Ladies and gentleman Ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen, we can now watch a video on the Greek Presidency’s logo.
E. VENIZELOS: Thank you for your positive reaction. As the Presidency’s motto says: Our common quest, notre quête commune.
Because Europe, is everything we said in terms of notions of principles, everything we want: democracy, culture, enlightenment, tolerance, rule of law, social state, prospects for prosperity.
But these things are not a given. They have to be gained anew every time, perhaps every day. So our goal is to once again fight for these things; fight so that Greece can gain its position in the European Union, so that we can give the potential to every young Greek to fight to win a place in the sun of our homeland.
Let me take this opportunity to give you some of the basic elements of the Greek Presidency’s cultural identity. The Presidency, as I said earlier, will be accompanied by a programme that expresses its spare, effective and realistic nature. This also holds true for the Presidency’s cultural activities.
Naturally, we cannot avoid the cultural dimension of the Presidency, because Greece is identified with culture. But we want to do this in a focused manner; a manner that respects the current state of Greek society.
At the same time, we must celebrate the European perspective, point up the Presidency, and fuel the public debate ahead of the elections for the new European Parliament.
A programme was prepared in close collaboration with the Ministry of Culture. This programme includes, primarily, the opening ceremony of the Greek Presidency, which will take place on 8 January 2014 at the Athens Concert Hall, and the main content will be a show entitled “Journey to Eternity”, with the orchestra and ballet from the National Opera and music by Eleni Karaindrou.
An exhibition entitled “Nautilus, Navigating Greece,” dedicated to the sea and its diachronic relationship with Greece, will take place at the Bozar Museum of Brussels. Part of the exhibition will include and highlight eight key concepts associated with the sea. One hundred works of Greek antiquity will be exhibited alongside 11 works of contemporary Greek art. Collaborating at this exhibition will be 29 public archaeological museums, the New Acropolis Museum (which is also public), the Museum of Cycladic Art, as well as artists and private collectors of contemporary art.
The curators of this exhibition will be Culture Ministry personnel, under the supervision and coordination of the Secretary General of the Ministry, Lina Mendoni. The opening will take place in Brussels on 24 January, and the exhibit will run until the end of April.
Our embassies in Europe and other parts of the world will carry out thoughtful yet simple cultural activities, to the extent that they are necessary. I will, however, mention one activity that connects us with the Italian Presidency of the Mediterranean year of 2014. In collaboration with the Presidency of the Italian Republic, a jointly organized cultural event will take place at the Presidential Palace, the Quirinale, for the duration of the last two months of the Greek Presidency and the first two months of the Italian presidency, with significant archaeological items from four different periods in Greece and Magna Graecia, as well as a simultaneous presentation of Greek and Italian contemporary visual artists.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Greek Presidency account has already been activated on twitter, and our website has been launched. I would also like to publicly express my gratitude to the Research Institute of Communications and Computer Systems of the National Technical University of Athens, as well as to the administrative and political leadership and members of the Secretariat General of Information and Communications, who worked tirelessly for the high quality and aesthetically pleasing presence of the Greek Presidency on the web, and of course the spokesperson of the Presidency, Mr. Koutras, who, beyond the duties of the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will bear the duties of the spokesperson of the Presidency.
Thus, we are very well prepared for this Presidency, and I believe the logo and the motto confirm this. Thank you once again for your presence, and please allow Mr. Kourkoulas, Deputy Foreign Minister for European Affairs, to give us some technical details concerning the preparations for the Presidency.
D. KOURKOULAS: Thank you, Minister. I am afraid that this is going to be very hard for you to go from the high level to the low level of practical figures. But public opinion is not very well aware what the Presidency means in practice.
In practice, this means that the country of the Presidency, both here and in Brussels, should strengthen its presence. Because in every working group, be it at a technical or be it at a higher level, or at the ministerial level, Greece has to have two representatives throughout this six-month period: The person who will be chairing and the national representative.
At the same time, during the Presidency, about 120 official meetings are traditionally hosted, with the participation of the 28 member-states, plus the European Commission and the Council Secretariat. These 120 meetings will this time - and this will be different from the previous presidency - will relate to 28 member-states and not 15.
So, as you heard from the Minister, we have a decrease in the importance of the Presidency in some sectors. On the other hand, the administrative requirements for the meetings that will be hosted in the country of the Presidency are increasing.
We have decided that all of these meetings, with a very few exceptions, will take place in Athens. Everything will be organized at the same place, at Zappeion. All our foreign guests are familiar with Zappeion. For reasons of cost, transport and security.
As far as the strengthening of the permanent Greek representation which is going to bear the burden of representing Greece in Brussels during the meetings, I must say that the number has gone up from 110 to about 150.
And comparatively speaking let me say that in previous presidencies the numbers have gone up by much more. Poland 300, Cyprus 260, and therefore you can see that in this case we are trying to do our best with as limited resources as possible.
The budget of the Presidency has been calculated for the period 2013-2014 at 50 million euros. This is much lower than the budget of every recent presidency, after the Treaty of Lisbon.
The Cyprus Presidency had a budget of over 60 million, Denmark the same, Poland 70 million.
And hopefully, we have strong indications that it will not be necessary to use up the whole amount.
As far as the organization of the Presidency is concerned, the basic responsibility lies with the Foreign Ministry. We have by law set up an office of the Presidency, which only employees 19 people, as compared to much larger teams of the past. Some of these are Foreign Ministry officials, some from other departments, and we are in the process of hiring nine people from the market for specific jobs.
Only nine new people will enter the system for the organization of the Presidency and this only for the period until the end of the Presidency. It is not going to be a recruitment that will be extended.
And if you were aware of how big the salaries will be, you will understand that when we speak of austerity, we really mean it. And the same is true for the permanent Greek representation in Brussels.
They will be paid from the 50 million I mentioned that is our budget. They will return back to the center as soon as possible.
We have used sponsorships which we will announce at another opportunity, but for instance the necessary vehicles which will be used to transport the people that are visitors for the 120 meetings, 14,000 arrivals and 18,000 overnights during the six months, all the vehicles will be funded by sponsorships and a number of other events, cultural and others, will also be funded by sponsors.
Now, the office of the Presidency, which is doing an excellent job during the past few months, with very limited human resources, right from the start we had foreseen -because it is going to be one of the most important missions or the most important mission for the Foreign Ministry in the next six months - we had foreseen the appointment of a high ministry official. This will be done in a few days.
And in relation to this I would like to thank Mr. Androulakis, who is going to continue to help us, as he has already done very effectively. I would like to thank him for his effort and the efforts of his collaborators. Comparatively speaking, the Cyprus Presidency employed 70 people for the same purpose.
Before I conclude, I would like to say a few words on something that has been promoted by the media recently. I don’t want to disappoint the ambassadors of the countries represented here. We have this tradition for the past 20 years for each Presidency to offer its guests ties.
The number of the ties that we need to prepare is something like 20,000 or 30,000 - the figures I told you earlier. This is the number of those who will be participating both in Greece and in Brussels at the various meetings.
This is the tradition, and when we started the design and we asked for technical assistance from the competent body, the ties and the scarves for the ladies were among our responsibilities.
Quite correctly, the Ministry and the Department started preparations in view of ordering the ties. But as we heard from the Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, because of the economic condition in Greece and because of the finances, we are in touch with the Italian Presidency and the other European bodies and the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister has decided that we should interrupt this tradition; we should break it.
It is actually ludicrous that we should be discussing such a small amount for such a long time, but let me tell you that the services of the Ministry intended to order 12,000 and not 20,000 or 25,000 ties.
And the amount would be quite reasonable, but for symbolic reasons and after the agreement of the Italian Presidency and the European institutions, my dear ambassadors, I am very sorry, you will not get a new tie for your collections, but we all, I think, understand the strong symbolism of this.
I have nothing further to add as far as the organization is concerned. Once again, thank you for being with us.
K. KOUTRAS: We have very limited time, but nevertheless, if there are journalists who would like to ask questions either to the Deputy Prime Minister or to Minister Kourkoulas, this is your chance.
Any questions? No? Ms. Bethani?
L. BETHANI: Thank you very much. Of course, we heard from the Deputy Prime Minister. He did speak about euro-skepticism and how it grows during the crisis in the European Union. Are we ready as the Presidency to describe the initiatives that we will undertake as a presidency, to deal with these problems, since we see a growth of euro-skepticism and extreme right movement in Europe?
E. VENIZELOS: The problems of racism, xenophobia, of divisive speech, of the extreme right that does not respect European legal culture, are quite old.
This is a personal scientific and moral obligation. The first report which was submitted to the European Parliament on racism and xenophobia was by Professor Evrigenis, member and judge of the European Court of Human Rights in 1984.
Historically speaking, this is probably the first document of reference of the European institutions in dealing with racism and xenophobia.
Unfortunately, in Greece we have a political party that is covering for criminal organization, according to what we hear from the judicial authorities. And this is outside the constitutional range.
But we don’t have only this form of euro-skepticism. We also have a questioning of the ability of Europe to manage the crisis and to offer a perspective. And this starts from many different starting points. Radical, populist, nationalist. There are phenomena of not only traditional conservatives, but other forms of nationalism.
There is an issue of cultural values in Europe. The Presidency can raise the issue to be debated at the General Affairs Council. It may organize and it will organize forms of institutional, scientific and political debates, in the months leading up to the European elections.
It can collaborate and it will collaborate with European Union institutions, in order to promote the issue. But the great responsibility lies with the peoples of Europe themselves, who will be voting for their own parliaments and governments.
Because the big problem of the European Union and European integration is still an intergovernmental responsibility. It is therefore very important for the governments, national governments and national electorates, to deal with the problem and express themselves directly and honestly on the issue.
Because there are some things that for us were self-evident which are not so any longer. Nobody thought that we would have the need to cut pensions and revenues and to go back on the achievements of the welfare state.
Nobody can say that there is a problem of parliamentarianism and rule of law in Europe; but someday, we may suddenly wake up and find that there is a problem.
So nothing is self-evident. It is something that we need to fight for all the time, and that is why the motto of the Presidency is “Europe: Our Common Quest,” and this means that we shall re-conquer European values, and we will do so every day.
Thank you very much, my colleagues from the European Parliament, as well as the ambassadors and the Secretary General of the Presidency of the Republic, the representative of the European Parliament, for being with us.
Thank you very much.