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Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Venizelos’ New Year’s message as Greece assumes the Presidency of the Council of the EU
Greece assumes the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and it does so with a keen sense of its responsibility to its EU partners and all European citizens. Because the next six months will be a major turning point, not only for Greece itself, as it emerges from a crisis that has exacted many hard sacrifices from the Greek people, but also for the Union as a whole, as we make our final arguments in the debate on the future of our Union, ahead of the May 2014 European elections.
The Hellenic Presidency’s priorities reflect the needs and concerns of all European citizens: growth and jobs, with a focus on alleviating unemployment – particularly among the young – and boosting job-creating investments in the real economy; deepening European and Eurozone economic governance, which means working towards implementation of the agreement on the banking union and pursuing the European deposit guarantee scheme; and security of our common borders, including policies and initiatives for confronting illegal migration, as well as for promoting growth-oriented mobility within an area of freedom, security and justice.
Recognizing the vital role the multifaceted maritime sector must play in Europe’s recovery from the current crisis and its return to long-term sustainable growth and competitiveness within the global economy, our Presidency has also adopted a horizontal priority that overlaps all of our other focal points: An integrated maritime policy for the European Union. This includes pursuing the adoption of an EU Maritime Security Strategy, as well as building the framework for “blue growth” in sectors from fisheries and tourism to transport, maritime spatial planning, and alternative forms of energy.
The Hellenic Presidency’s objectives are ambitious, but feasible, and our partners may rest assured that we will pursue them effectively and with resolve. But at the same time, there is very real uncertainty as to the new European social and political landscape into which the labours of our Presidency are to be absorbed; the landscape that will result from the European elections in May.
The citizens of Europe are experiencing this uncertainty on the levels of diminishing financial and job security, eroding social cohesion, rising Euroscepticism. They are experiencing it as the absence of a viable historical narrative in which they have a real voice in the Union’s legislative and executive institutions; a new narrative that reasserts the values of the European social state, democracy, solidarity, a European model for competitiveness and sustainable growth.
So the Hellenic Presidency will also be an institutional voice in the crucial political conversation Europe will be carrying out over the next five months. On behalf of the Hellenic Presidency and the Greek people, I wish all European citizens – not just politicians, civil society and interest-group actors – the fortitude and vision to participate actively and productively in our conversation on the future of Europe, which is our common quest.
As our motto says, United we sail further!
A happy and healthy New Year to all!