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The Hellenic Presidency of the Council of the European Union - challenges and results
The Hellenic Presidency of the Council of the European Union (first semester 2014) - challenges and results
Greece took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union during the first semester of 2014, for the fifth time. 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 European Union (EU) and its way of functioning. This criticism and discontent were rather eloquently demonstrated during the European Parliament elections held in May 2014, when the 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 deliver tangible results for the EU citizens under particularly difficult conditions and to find realistic solutions to the Union’s very real and pressing problems. We 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.
During the Hellenic Presidency, 71 acts of legislation were concluded. Work continued even 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 has 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.
Further Integration of the EU and the Eurozone
First, among the main priorities of the Hellenic Presidency has been 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), constitute a major step towards the completion of the Banking Union. Other important financial files have also been 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 will 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 secures 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, will 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 to the economy, and in particular to the SMEs. Important investment files were also concluded, like the innovation investment package that 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 need 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 has been the adoption at the June 2014 European Council 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 has so far been perceived as migration management. It testified that handling of 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 has been 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 June 2014 General Affairs Council and endorsed by the European Council of the same month. It is the first time that the EU is developing a holistic, cross-sectoral strategy of this kind, which will result in better protecting and promoting 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.
Results of the Hellenic Presidency of the Council of the European Union