Greece took over the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union last week, claiming it will run the six month presidency on a “shoestring budget” of €50 million, one of the lowest presidency budgets in history. This will apparently be a hard-working, value-for-money presidency, highlighting how the country wants to be seen by others in the EU. The launch party was certainly a “no nonsense” affair, with Greek authorities imposing a strict 18-hour ban on street protests in Athens, enforced by riot police surrounding the national parliament. No conga-lines through central Athens, then.
This is now the fifth time that Greece has held the Presidency since the country became an EU member state in 1981. Following the examples of Ireland and Lithuania (click here to see the achievements of the Lithuanian Presidency), one of the priorities of the Presidency will be to enhance “social cohesion” and political stability in the EU by creating more jobs and stronger economic growth. In addition, the Greek Presidency wants to push for further integration of the Eurozone in order to ensure greater financial stability, transparency and accountability. Thirdly, they want to promote the positive (economic) aspects of legal migration and mobility, while combating illegal migration and human trafficking.
It’s going to be a tough job on a small budget. Citizens’ confidence in EU institutions has never been as low as it is today. However, following a six year recession that wiped out over 25 percent of Greece’s economic output, the country hopes to return to economic growth in 2014 and expects to be in a stronger position when it hands over the Presidency to Italy on 1 July 2014.
Greece will also hold the Council Presidency during the crucial May 2014 European Parliament elections, which could see a voter backlash against the policies of austerity. Eurosceptic parties (along with Far Left and Far Right parties such as the Greek neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party) are expected to do well on the back of public anger (and remember: if you want to show your support for a particular political ideology in the European Parliament (pro-EU, eurosceptic or otherwise) then you can take part in the Debating Europe Vote 2014!).
Do you think Greece can achieve its goals over the coming six months and regain public trust in the EU? What impact do you think the Greek Presidency will have on current austerity policies? Will there be more austerity EU-wide? Will euroscepticism grow stronger over the next six months? And what can the EU learn from Greece? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.