By Her Excellency Mrs. Teresa Paraskevi Angelatou, Ambassador of Greece to the Kingdom of The Netherlands
The Hellenic Republic assumed, for the fifth time, the Presidency to the Council of the European Union on January 2014 and concluded its mission at the end of June 2014 by handing the Presidency 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.
A European Union Presidency is not about assuming responsibility of European affairs as a whole. For some it is a management job whereby one after the other, in six month intervals, the member-states are in charge of coordinating day to day business. For some, “it’s a dirty job but someone has to do it”, for others it’s a cause of celebration. But, what is important is that this way all member states have a chance to further integrate to this wonderful European idea and the people of each country to better feel and understand the importance and benefits of this exercise.
All presidencies, no matter if held by a big or small country, inherit issues that are already being considered and discussed by previous presidencies, manage issues that arise during its six month tenure and contribute to the overall effort by initiating new themes. The Hellenic presidency was no exception to this rule. This Presidency, the third part of the Trio Presidency (Ireland, Lithuania, Greece) had four themes of action: Growth-Jobs-Cohesion, Further integration of the European Union-Eurozone, Migration-Borders-Mobility and a forth horizontal one, Maritime Policies. These objectives have taken into account the existing discussion on some extremely important matters and have added a personal touch, that of the sea policy, for reasons that you may easily imagine.
The last three years were a very peculiar period, one that found Europe at a crossroads and ironically, enough, it found Greece in the middle, being seriously challenged. Some were predicting the so called “Grexit”, the idea that Greece should exit the Euro and some were even predicting that the Euro itself would not make it either… We proved them wrong! Though the European Union had problems, it has at the same time the capacity to solve those problems and move ahead. We proved that people across our Union can successfully make the difference and change Europe, make it stronger and safer, with more competitive economies and more stable democracies.
The recent European elections were as important as they could be. Never was the European Union so big in size and never before has it been challenged from the inside as today. The European people did not vote against Europe. On the contrary they voted for more Europe and better Europe! Greece was determined that under its watch the European idea would be further solidified. Because Europe IS our common quest!