11 December 2013
Greece will take over from Lithuania the 6-month Presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2014, before handing over to Italy on 1 July 2014. It is the fifth time that Greece will hold the EU Presidency since its accession to the European Communities in 1981.
At a recent breakfast briefing, Theodoros Sotiropoulos, Permanent Representative of Greece to the EU presented the priorities of the Presidency stressing that the priorities would be driven by the inescapable and difficult duty of addressing the pressing needs of citizens. The priorities of the Greek Presidency are 4-fold, as seen below:
2. Further integration of EU-Eurozone
4. Maritime priorities.
However, below Eurodiaconia has highlighted particular areas of work the Presidency plan to cover during their six month programme which are relevant for our members.
Growth – jobs - cohesion
At this week’s EPSCO Council meeting, Greek Minister of Labour, Social Security and Welfare, Yannis Vroutsis told social, employment and health ministers of the EU that the Greek Presidency’s first priority is the promotion of employment and especially youth employment. The Greek Presidency will focus on speeding up the implementation of actions relating to the “Initiative for the Youth” and monitoring the implementation of national projects relating to “Youth guarantee”. He stressed that the main objective is to balance the timetable of fiscal consolidation with the implementation of a substantially enhanced and realistic Compact for Growth and Jobs.
Referring to the need to strengthen the Social Dimension, the minister said that “the Greek Presidency aims to enrich the European Agenda with issues such as ensuring adequate and sustainable social protection systems and the existence of minimum safety nets with a view to addressing social challenges such as the aging population, unemployment, undeclared work and poverty”.
With regard to the promotion of equal opportunities, Mr Vroutsis stressed that “we will continue our efforts in order to find solutions and reach an agreement regarding the Proposal for a Directive on equal treatment irrespective of religion or other belief, disability, age or sexual orientation”.
The Minister also presented their priorities in the field of health explaining that they will prioritize the progress of a number of important legislative proposals in the field of health, (pharmaceutical and medical devices), while non-legislative work will aim at addressing and promoting successfully implemented initiatives towards more efficient health systems and better health. Non-legislative priorities will include (a) the economic crisis and its impact on healthcare and health systems, (b) migration and public health, (c) nutrition and physical activity, and (d) eHealth and health innovation.
Integration of the EU –eurozone
Another priority of the Presidency will be tackling the financial and economic crisis in the Eurozone and completing the new European Monetary Union architecture. Special emphasis will be attached to the social dimension of the EMU, as one of the pillars for its further deepening. The aim is to ensure the effective implementation and further integration of the new EU/Eurozone economic governance mechanisms so as to enhance synergies between member-states in a growth- and jobs-friendly way.
Migration – border – mobility
According to the priorities stated on their website, the Greek Presidency will concentrate its efforts on highlighting the positive aspects of a comprehensive migration management to the benefit of boosting growth and promoting all dimensions of migration and mobility policies.
In recent discussions, Permanent Representative of Greece to the EU explained that the area of freedom, security and justice has to be reinforced, illegal immigration reduced, and legal migration better organised. In future, the EU should make a link between financial assistance to non-EU countries to their efforts to fight illegal migration, and a permanent EU asylum mechanism has to be constructed he said. He also pointed out that there will be a Commission Communication in early March on migration, aiming for decisions to be taken at the June Summit. However modifying the "Dublin II" regulation on processing asylum seekers entering the EU requires a majority vote, and there is currently a large majority against change, Mr Sotiropoulos said.
Relevant events under the Presidency:
• It’s worth noting that the European Parliament elections will take place during the Greek Presidency.
• The informal EPSCO Council that will be held in Athens on 29-30 April 2014 will include discussions on the integration of the Social Dimension in the European Employment Strategy.
• Visit the website of the Greek Presidency here http://www.gr2014.eu/
• Want to follow the Greek Presidency on Twitter? Go to @gr2014eu
What is Eurodiaconia doing?
Today (11 December), Secretary General of Eurodiaconia Heather Roy has had the opportunity to address Mr Yiannis Vroutsis, the Greek Minister of Labour, Social Security and Welfare in a meeting organised by Social Platform, bringing together a number of other civil society organisations in Athens. European umbrella organisation Social Platform organised the visit to Athens to meet with the Greek Ministry and highlight our concerns in the areas of social affairs.
Although we currently have no members in Greece, we will write to the Greek Presidency highlighting Eurodiaconia’s main concerns and recommendations relating to their social priorities. Heather Roy will also be invited as President of Social Platform to attend the informal EPSCO meetings held under the Presidency during 2014.