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Past Greek Presidencies
Past Hellenic Presidencies of the Council of the EU
1st July - 31st December 1983
Greece held the Presidency of the EEC for the first time in the second half of 1983. Among the main results of the Hellenic Presidency of 1983 were the enactment of the new supplementary budget in 1983, the substantive progress in the third round of negotiations for enlargement, the commencement of negotiations with African, Caribbean and Pacific States on the signing of the Lome III Convention and the signing of a Cooperation Agreement between the EEC and the Andean Pact.
During the same Presidency, an increase of the Community’s own resources was proposed.
Ahead of the accession of Spain and Portugal, which needed to be supported (facilitated) by special financial programs, Greece proposed the establishment of regional financing to remove inequalities. The Integrated Mediterranean Programs became a reality two years later (1985).
1st July – 31st December 1988
The second Hellenic Presidency took initiatives to discuss major issues relating to the future role of the Community and the content of the process of European integration. In this respect, a number of initiatives were taken in order to promote further the international role of the Community, the single European area, environmental protection and general discussions on East-West relations.
This second Presidency coincided with the application of a deadline for the establishment of the Unified Internal Market (White Paper).
Jacques Delors, who was at that time President of the European Commission, had already presented (tabled) the «Delors Package» which contained measures for the revision of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), for the increase of the financing and of the resources of structural Funds (what had already been proposed by Greece, two years ago) and for the improvement of the coherence between the member states.
The package was accepted by Greece which added to this catalogue the balanced growth of the member states as well as the promotion of new policy areas, like the Unified Social Charter.
Among them proposals concerning unemployment, equality of sexes, education and culture and the encouragement of the social coherence were included.
As far as the External Relations are concerned, Greece played a very important role in the negotiations of the Lomé IV Convention with ACP countries and in the revision of the GATT (General Convention of Taxes and Trade).
The second Hellenic Presidency came to an end in the impressive surroundings of the Knight’s Castle on the island of Rhodes, where the necessary foundations were laid for adoption of the Community’s Social Charter.
1st January - 31st June 1994
It was a Presidency completely different from the two previous ones. The Treaty of Maastricht establishing the European Union had just entered into force and there were a number of exceptionally complex and difficult issues relating to the process of European integration which had to be tackled. The driving force behind the Presidency was the idea of European integration, thus its program had a purely European orientation.
At the same time, the White Paper of the European Union was adopted, a text containing guidelines, reducing unemployment, establishing trans-European networks (especially in energy and transports), enhancing the competitiveness of the European economy.
During this period the Coherence Fund was created, the European Charter of Energy was approved and the 4th Pilot-Project of Research and Technology was promoted.
The Committee of Regions was established, foreign policy started receiving funds from the communities budget and the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop) was transferred from Berlin to Thessaloniki.
At the Corfu Summit held on 24– 25 June 1994 efforts to enlarge the European Union with the accession of Austria, Finland and Sweden were completed, with the signing of the respective Acts of Accession. During its third EU Presidency, Greece promoted the prospect of EU enlargement towards the south and east of Europe so as to ensure stability, development and collaboration in South-Eastern Europe.
A particularly important policy area, successfully handled by the third Hellenic Presidency, was that of Justice and Home Affairs. Seeking to contribute in a substantive manner to the establishment of a new institutional identity for the activities under the Third Pillar of the European Union, the Hellenic Presidency promoted:
• The stepping up of work to prepare a Treaty for the establishment of Europol
• The stepping up of the implementation of the Dublin Convention as well as promotion of the idea of signing a parallel convention with non-member states in order to achieve a broader, harmonized European policy on asylum
• The preparation of an overall strategy to combat illegal drug activity
• The support for judicial cooperation and joint action as part of efforts to fight international organized crime.
During this third Presidency and especially during the session of an Informal meeting of foreign ministers, the on March 29th 1994, in Ioannina, Greece, the “Ioannina compromise” was adopted. This compromise is like a clause which allows every member state which is near a blocking minority but it has not succeeded it to ask for a revision of the decision. More explicitly: The resulting compromise laid down that if members of the Council representing between 23 votes (the old blocking minority threshold) and 26 votes (the new threshold) expressed their intention to oppose the taking of a decision by the Council by qualified majority, the Council would do all within its power, within a reasonable space of time, to reach a satisfactory solution that could be adopted by at least 68 votes out of 87.
1st January – 31st June 2003
The presentation of the draft European Constitution along with the Signing Ceremony for the Accession Treaty of 10 candidate countries constituted two landmark events in the development of the European Union, during Greece’s fourth EU Presidency. The latter, the Signing of 10 Accession Treaties, marked the last phase of the largest wave of enlargement in the history of the EU and set the seal on the re-unification of Europe. It was a supreme moment of the Presidency, celebrated at the foot of the Acropolis.
(photo:http://www.eu2003.gr //multimedia/image/2003_4 /862.jpg )
The fourth Hellenic Presidency (2003) prioritized enlargement in the Western Balkans and pushed for a clear EU commitment to the European future of the Western Balkan countries. The Thessaloniki Agenda, adopted in June 2003 included a set of concrete measures aimed at achieving this important objective.
(Thessaloniki European Council photo: http://www.eu2003.gr//multimedia/image/2003_6/1087.jpg)
The Hellenic Presidency’s curtain fell in a climate of praise for Greece’s contribution, with the first-half 2003 presidency being characterized during the European Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg on July 1st 2003 as a “model for the effectiveness of medium-size countries in exercising the Presidency” (Maij Wegen, European Popular Party), while the Hellenic Presidency was also praised for its ability to handle affairs in a “humanitarian spirit” (Carlos Lage, Socialist Group). In addition, it was stressed that the Hellenic Presidency managed “with great leadership skills to hold the rudder on a course that was no cruise but an Odyssey” (Baron Crespo, Socialist Group).
1st January – 31st June 2014
The fifth Hellenic Presidency of the Council of the European Union concluded its mission and handed over to Italy. The Hellenic Presidency conducted its work at a period heavily affected by the ongoing economic crisis and its devastating effects in the social sphere. It was a period characterized by severe criticism of the EU and its way of functioning. This criticism and discontent were rather eloquently demonstrated during the recent European Parliament elections, when EU citizens proved to be quite vocal in their demand for a better Europe.
During the first semester of 2014, the Hellenic Presidency labored in an effort to lead the Union to a hopeful future, the future that the peoples and citizens of Europe deserve. Greece tried to turn the EU into a mature and potent political actor, one that, having learned from its past mistakes and delays, is capable of effective management of both internal as well as external challenges and opportunities. Our primary aim was to deliver tangible results for EU citizens under particularly difficult conditions. Our main objective was to find realistic solutions to the Union’s very real and pressing problems.
During the Hellenic Presidency, 71 pieces of legislation were concluded. Work continued after the European Parliament recess and agreement was reached within the Council on over 15 legislative acts.
Cooperation with the European parliament as well as with all EU Institutions had been exemplary. Since assuming the duties of the Presidency, Greece attempted to prioritize its work so as to reflect all issues of major impact to the average European citizen:
The four priorities of the fifth Hellenic Presidency were namely:
- Further Integration of the EU and the Eurozone: First, among the main priorities of the Hellenic Presidency was the management of the EMU and the Eurozone’s architectural emerging deficiencies, which had emerged due to the recent economic crisis. In this context, Greece paid special emphasis to the EMU deepening, and particularly to the completion of the Banking Union. The conclusion of the Single Resolution Mechanism Regulation (SRM), in combination with the Inter-Governmental Agreement on the Single Resolution Fund (SRF), constituted a major step towards the completion of the Banking Union. Other important financial files were also concluded, aiming at enhancing the transparency, soundness and responsibility of the financial system and ensuring the financial markets’ stability, whilst protecting the rights of private investors and consumers.
- Growth – Jobs – Cohesion: On Jobs and Growth, (a) the approval of the own resources legislative package to ensure timely and steady financing of EU policies, in the framework of the Multiannual Financial Framework. (b) The agreement on the funding of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund to secure the unimpeded funding of the new Common Fisheries Policy. Moreover, (c) the adoption of legislation, in the framework of the Single Market Act I and II to further contribute to our common goals, namely enhancing the competitiveness of the European economy as a whole, by providing the necessary facilitation and safeguards to the EU citizens and businesses. An agreement was also reached on the participation of the Union in the capital increase of the European Investment Fund (EIF), thus further enhancing its capacity of restoring normal lending the economy, and in particular the SMEs. Important investment files were also concluded, like the innovation investment package which introduces a new generation of public and private partnerships facilitating innovation projects. Progress was made in the field of telecommunications and infrastructure with the adoption of two Directives (a) one aiming at reducing the cost of high-level electronic communications networks and (b) one regulating alternative fuels infrastructure.
- Migration – Borders – Mobility: In the field of border and migration management, which presents a major challenge not only for the European South, but for the Union as a whole, the Hellenic Presidency concluded two legislative files, revising the list of countries whose citizens needed to issue a visa before entering the EU, thus instituting a visa liberalization regime with another 20 third countries, including the Republic of Moldova. Other important and difficult achievements were the adoption of the Directive on the conditions of entry and stay of third-country nationals in the context of Intra-Corporate Transfer (ICT), as well as the FRONTEX Regulation. A major breakthrough was the adoption at the European Council in June 2014 of the Post Stockholm Strategic Guidelines for legislative and operational planning in the area of freedom, security and justice on which the Presidency, and the Council as a whole, had put a lot of work throughout the first semester of 2014. The Guidelines focused attention on (a) the implementation of the principle of solidarity in the areas of asylum, border and migration management, (b) the linkage between migration and the Union’s foreign policy (cooperation with third countries, “more for more” principle), (c) the development of effective return, readmission and visa policies, (d) continuous attention to an effective internal security framework. This development marked a turning point on what had so far been perceived as migration management. It testified that handling migration is not a problem for the countries of the South, but a European problem, affecting the security of the European borders and the social cohesion in all European countries.
- The Horizontal Thematic of Maritime Policies: The horizontal thematic of the Hellenic Presidency was to redefine and relaunch EU maritime policies in all their aspects, including security, growth and energy. A key component of this has been the European Maritime Security Strategy, adopted by the General Affairs Council in June 2014 and endorsed by the European Council in the same month. It is the first time that the EU was developing a holistic, cross-sectoral strategy of this kind, which in order to better protect and promote security and economic interests of the EU and its member states at sea. This Strategy is a clear testimony that when political will exists, it is possible for the EU to overcome red tape practices and make good and full use of the unique ability it possesses to compose views, policies, ways and means so that it better safeguards security and prosperity of the EU citizens.