Progress on European Monetary Union (EMU), jobs and growth, border and migration management and EU maritime policies topped the list of achievements under Greece’s EU Presidency cited by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in a plenary debate with MEPs on Wednesday. Commission President José Manuel Barroso summarized the Greek Presidency in three words: "logos", "pathos" and "ethos".
Progress made in all the Greek Presidency’s priority areas
In a presidency that lasted only four months – reduced from the usual six months by the European elections in May- Greece concluded work on 67 pieces of legislation and made progress on another 15 legislative initiatives in several areas, "with a minimal budget of which not more than 40% was finally spent!", noted Mr Samaras.
He cited deepening EMU as Greece’s foremost achievement. "The conclusion of the Single Resolution Mechanism Regulation (SRM), together with the Inter-Governmental Agreement on the Single Resolution Fund (SRF), constitute a major step towards completing the Banking Union. Οur monetary Union is now much better equipped to avoid future crises and better prepared to face them if they do happen", he said.
In a period when the EU was mired in huge unemployment, progress was achieved on jobs and growth, thanks to EU legislation on own resources, e-business and e-commerce, the posting of workers, electronic invoicing in public procurement and the disclosure of non-financial information of businesses, he continued.
Mr Samaras also listed achievements in the area of border and migration management, such as revising the list of countries requiring visas to enter the EU and adopting the directive on EU entry and stay conditions for third-country nationals.
The Presidency’s work on the European Maritime Security Strategy would result in better protecting and promoting the security and economic interests of EU and its member states at sea, he added.
Greece and the EU "seriously challenged"
Mr Samaras also noted that those who had predicted Greece's exit from the eurozone (the so-called "Grexit") had been proved wrong. "Europe worked. Our Union has problems, but it also has the capacity to solve those problems and go ahead", he said. Even though Greece and the EU as a whole had been "seriously challenged" over the past three years, people across the Union managed to show solidarity and the ability to change to become more competitive, he added.
In the May European elections, "people voted for more and better Europe", so MEPs should strive to bring citizens closer to the EU as "people need to feel our Union closer to their hearts" and "inspired by our Union and by its prospects", said Mr Samaras.
Replying to criticism of his handling of domestic issues, Mr Samaras hoped that the suffering of Greeks would become just a "bad memory" in the years to come. Members of the Golden Dawn party recently brought to justice had been "prosecuted for what they do, not what they believe in".
"A very important presidency in difficult times"
Mr Barroso stressed that Greece had shown during its Presidency that it could not only respond to crisis but also contribute constructively to the European agenda. He praised the Presidency for working very hard to strict deadlines, noting that achievements that would have been thought impossible a few years before, such as completing the Banking Union and getting “European Semester” economic policy coordination under way, were now a reality.