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Foreign Ministry announcement regarding the priorities of the Greek EU Presidency in the first half of 2014

Wednesday, 07 August 2013

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos today presented to the Cabinet the priorities of the Greek EU Presidency in the first half of 2014, which were unanimously approved.

Mr. Venizelos underscored that Greece is assuming the Presidency of the Council of the European Union at a critical transitional juncture for Europe. The economic crisis forced the adoption of fiscal constraint policies aimed at ensuring financial stability and returning the economy to health. The extent and intensity of the crisis and the resulting recession and unemployment undermined the trust of a significant number of European citizens in the ability of the European edifice to implement credible and effective policy for a return to prosperity, economic recovery and a high level of employment.

At the same time, confronting the crisis through the implementation of policies of strict fiscal discipline strongly impacted social cohesion, particularly in countries directly affected by the crisis.

As such, Mr. Venizelos stressed, the great challenge for prosperity and stability in the EU lies in reaffirmation of the EU’s mission in the hearts and minds of European citizens. In this context, Europe is currently being called upon to respond to the challenge of the economic crisis, safeguarding the common currency through deepening of the EMU, while promoting direct policies for confronting the recession and unemployment by stimulating growth.

Mr. Venizelos also noted that the European Parliament elections during the Greek Presidency are an addition factor determining the framework of this Presidency.

With the above in mind, Mr. Venizelos proceeded to a brief presentation of the priorities of the Greek Presidency of the Council of the EU, as follows:

1.    Growth-Jobs-Cohesion

In a period when unemployment has reached record-high rates in most EU member-states, affecting especially the young, and when recession is a constant threat to European economies, growth cannot but figure as a matter of overriding importance for the Greek Presidency in our common goal to remove European economies from recession. From the Greek perspective, Jobs and Growth are structurally and inextricably connected.

The main objective is to balance the timetable of fiscal consolidation 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, with a focus on employment. The European Investment Bank (EIB) can have a strong role in relation to the labour-intensive projects (e.g. projects for SMEs, basic infrastructure, energy and climate) with the support and trust of the European Central Bank (ECB).

The initiatives and actions for halting unemployment and boosting job creation are absolutely necessary in order to avert the danger of “jobless growth”.

2.    Further integration of EU-Eurozone

Tackling the financial and economic crisis in the Eurozone and completing the new EMU architecture will certainly remain priorities for the EU rotating presidencies of the coming years, including the Greek one. The main objective is to safeguard the stability of the common currency by advancing the deepening of the EMU and the ex ante coordination of national fiscal and economic policies.

In this framework, progress on the following building blocks will be emphasized:

(a)    The promotion of the banking union. This remains essential to the improved functioning of the EMU and a prerequisite for increased confidence in the European economy.
(b)    Agreement on the principles of the reinforced budgetary and economic integration frameworks. The aim is to ensure the effective implementation and further integration of the new EU/Eurozone economic governance mechanisms so as to enhance synergies between member-states in a growth- and jobs-friendly way.
(c)    Special emphasis will be attached to the social dimension of the EMU, as one of the pillars for its further deepening.

At the same time, we will need to lay the foundations for an institutional structure that ensures enhanced transparency, accountability and representation for the whole exercise.

3.    Migration-Borders-Mobility

Instability in the European periphery and the persistence of the causes that lead to immigration flows into Europe increase these flows and place an extra burden on EU member states during a period of economic crisis when all forces and efforts should be focused on reforms aimed at safeguarding stability and revitalizing growth. This burden falls mainly on the EU member-states that are on Europe’s external borders, as well as on those heavily affected by recession and unemployment.

In this context, the Greek Presidency will concentrate its efforts on highlighting the positive aspects of a comprehensive migration management to the benefit of boosting growth and will spare no efforts in promoting all dimensions of migration and mobility policies. At the same time, action is envisaged to tackle the problems arising from illegal migration in economy, social cohesion and political stability.

Maritime Policies

Being a traditionally maritime country, Greece recognizes the great potential that marine and maritime activities have of benefitting the EU economy as a whole, in a sustainable way. At the same time, obvious strategic interests point up the urgency of bringing to the fore and dealing with security problems of sea border management.

In this context, Greece introduces a horizontal thematic that will run through all three of the presidency’s priorities, namely the EU Maritime Policy. Τhe main idea is to redefine and restart the EU Maritime Policy in all its aspects, not solely confined to issues of growth and development (Limassol declaration).

Our aim is to cooperate closely with all Partners that share the same strategic interests and to promote strategies and policies that will benefit all EU member states. The Sea is an area of privilege in terms of knowledge and action for Greece, and it is an inexhaustible source of growth and prosperity for the whole of Europe.