|Programme & Priorities|
Greece will hold the Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2014, before handing over reins to Italy on 1 July 2014. It is the fifth time that Greece will hold the Presidency since its accession to the European Communities in 1981.
Greece assumes the Presidency of the Council of the EU at a time that Europe is going through a crucial transitional phase. The financial crisis imposed the implementation of restrictive fiscal policies in order to overcome initial deficiencies in the architecture of the EMU, safeguard financial stability and gradually return to sustainable public finances. However, the extent and intensity of the crisis, as well as the level of recession and unemployment that have ensued, have shaken the confidence of an important segment of European citizens in EU institutions and their ability to design and implement reliable, sound and growth-enhancing economic policies aiming at recovery, prosperity and high levels of employment. At the same time, austere fiscal policies had a great effect on social cohesion, particularly in countries directly affected by the crisis.
At this important juncture, the EU’s biggest challenge is to foster growth, competitiveness and jobs and to ensure stability and prosperity for all; for this the EU has to reaffirm its mission at the hearts and minds of its citizens. In this context, the EU is called upon today to safeguard financial stability through the deepening of the EMU, to boost growth-enhancing economic policies aiming to fight unemployment by, and inter alia, enhancing synergies between migration and growth and to restore lending to the economy, in particular to SMEs.
Briefly, the promotion of policies and actions for achieving growth, combating unemployment, promoting economic and social cohesion and structural reforms, deepening integration and completion of EMU, as well as addressing external challenges, including EU enlargement, formulate the priority framework of Hellenic Presidency.
Elections for a new European Parliament during the first semester of 2014 is yet another factor that sets the context of the Hellenic Presidency.
Main principles - objectives
The main principles which will guide the work of the Presidency can be summarized as follows:
Fields of Action
In a period when unemployment has reached unacceptably high rates in several EU member-states, affecting especially the youth, and when recession is a constant threat to European economies, growth becomes a matter of overriding importance for the Hellenic Presidency. Growth benefits the economy and promotes social cohesion and political stability in the Union, in a multifaceted way From the Presidency’s perspective, Jobs and Growth are structurally and inextricably connected. Within this framework, the initiatives and actions at the European level for reversing the negative employment trends and for boosting job creation are absolutely necessary in order to avert the danger of a “jobless growth”.
Striking the right balance between fiscal consolidation and growth-enhancing policies (in full alignment with the Europe 2020 Strategy) is considered to be the catalyst towards achieving the necessary cohesion among national economic policies, hence among European societies. It is such a cohesion that constitutes the laying foundation of further European integration, which is the second priority of the Hellenic Presidency.
The main objective is to return to sustainable public finances while promoting jobs-creating growth policies. This could be achieved through the enhanced implementation of the Compact for Growth and Jobs, a focus on employment, as well as improved SME’s access to finance, by, inter alia, prioritizing the implementation of the EIB-Commission Investment Plan.
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) also having the support and trust of the European Central Bank (ECB).
The Hellenic Presidency welcomes the EIB’s new mandate to the European Investment Fund (EIF) of up to EUR 4 billion and will support the Commission and the EIB in their efforts to further enhance the EIF capacity through an increase in its capital with a view to reaching final agreement by May 2014.
The Hellenic Presidency will further explore all possible ways to increase funding for the real economy, and particularly for the SMEs, by promoting the discussion on the financing of growth, including long-term alternative sources of funding.
In any case, it would be essential to launch the dialogue on those specific subject areas that offer high growth potential and, at the same time, job creation, such as innovation, services to firms, transport, shipping and tourism.
The interim evaluation of the "Europe 2020 Strategy", which will begin at the Spring 2014 European Council, lends the context and offers the opportunity for concrete initiatives. A first, but not sufficient, step in the right direction was taken by the European Council in June 2013, when European leaders decided to strengthen efforts to combat youth unemployment, and, at the same time, to endorse the joint EIB-Commission initiative («Investment Plan») to finance SMEs, as the key employers in the European economy.
Deepening the new EMU architecture, restoring financial liquidity and returning to growth will certainly remain key priorities for the EU rotating presidencies of the coming years, including the Hellenic one. These priorities will need to be developed in their full potential, while respecting the integrity of the Single Market.
In this framework, progress on the following building blocks will be emphasized as follows:
At the same time, we will need to work towards the strengthening of an institutional structure that would ensure enhanced transparency, accountability, national ownership and credibility towards the citizens of Europe. This dimension entails particular importance as an answer to the demographic and fiscal crisis of the European welfare state.
Instability in the European periphery, together with the perseverance of the causes that lead to immigration flows into Europe, increase these flows and place an extra burden on EU member states, in a period of economic crisis, when all forces and efforts should be focused on reforms aiming at safeguarding stability and revitalizing growth. This burden falls mainly on the EU member-states that are at Europe’s external borders, as well as on those heavily affected by recession and unemployment.
In this context, the Hellenic Presidency will concentrate its efforts at 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.
Since its launch in 2005 the Global Approach constitutes the main framework for EU policy and action in the area of the external relations in the field of Migration and Asylum. The renewed Global Approach on Migration and Mobility focuses on four operational priorities: i) better organizing legal migration and fostering well managed mobility ii) preventing and combating illegal migration and eradicating trafficking in human beings iii) maximizing the development impact of migration and mobility iv) promoting international protection and enhancing the external dimension of asylum.
Developing an area of freedom, security and justice has been and will continue to be a major objective for the EU. Today that Europe is facing multi-faceted challenges, it is more than necessary to reinforce the common European policy on the areas of Justice and Home Affairs. Such a common policy must be founded on genuine solidarity, joint responsibility and cooperation between member states.
The Sea is an area of privilege in terms of knowledge and action for Greece and an inexhaustible source of growth and prosperity for the whole of Europe.
Being a traditionally maritime country, Greece acknowledges the great potential and opportunity that marine and maritime activities hold for the EU economy as a whole, on the condition of sustainability. At the same time, Europe has obvious strategic interests that justify the urge to bring to the fore and deal with security problems of sea borders management.
In this context, Greece introduces an horizontal thematic that will run through all three of the presidency’s priorities, namely the EU Maritime Policies.
The main idea of this thematic is to redefine and re-launch the EU Maritime Policy in all its aspects. Building upon the work of previous Presidencies and, in particular, the Cyprus Presidency (Limassol declaration) and combining it with the security dimension tackled in the forthcoming Commission-EEAS Communication on a European Maritime Security Strategy.
Objective: Adoption of a text on Maritime Policies at the June 2014 European Council, highlighting the two dimensions: security and growth, including energy.
In this context, the Hellenic Presidency will endeavor to promote the following actions:
For more Information, check out the detailed thematic programme of the Greek Presidency.