Athens plans EU 'economic and political partnership' boost

Despite many challenges, Greece assumes the presidency as green shoots of economic recovery are being seen across Europe, says Yannis Stournaras.

By Yannis Stournaras

09 Jan 2014

European governments and the EU institutions have been working hard since 2009 in order to prevent an economic meltdown that could put in danger the eurozone's stability and could eventually transform into a major European political problem.

This herculean task has been extremely difficult both for European nations and their governments. The ongoing efforts have caused major economic and social problems in almost every country in Europe, especially to the countries that were called to implement economic adjustment programmes.

Yet, the first signs of gradual recovery of the European economy are now visible, following the synchronised efforts of the EU and the undertaking of initiatives towards the strengthening of coordination of the member states' economic and fiscal policies.

The recent financial crisis has proved that increased economic policy is necessary for re-building a strong and sustainable European economy, promoting employment, investment and growth and enabling a greater degree of convergence between member states.

In a few weeks, we approach the launch of the Greek presidency. Greece will assume the presidency of the EU council at challenging times for Europe. Despite the ongoing fiscal consolidation required to return public finances to a sustainable path and the restructuring of the European economies to improve competitiveness, further work is required in these areas. Growth is gradually picking up, however, we should make sure that market fragmentation is eliminated, lending to the economy is restored and that new jobs – especially for young people – are created.

Taking up the EU presidency will be a real challenge for Greece. [pullquote]We will assume our presidency not as a country in crisis but as a country in recovery[/pullquote]. Greece has come a long way since 2009. Thanks to the sacrifices of the Greek people and the support of our European partners, not only we have eliminated the possibility of a "Grexit", but we have proved that our mutual commitment to the European value of solidarity unites us.

The Lithuanian presidency has successfully advanced and completed several key initiatives through a complex legislative procedure and I am confident, in the remaining time, the Lithuanian leadership will achieve even greater progress by advancing and completing pending legislation and policy.

Building on the work carried out by the Lithuanian presidency, the Greek presidency, assuming the leadership of the Ecofin council, intends to contribute to the strengthening of our economic and political partnership. In this context, we will work towards: further deepening of the economic and monetary union, with special emphasis to the social dimension, in order to reconcile economic efficiency and social equity; promoting the banking union as being of critical importance in seeking to restore confidence, break the link between banking system and sovereigns and prove to our citizens they can depend on us; managing the fourth European semester process to ensure reliability of the procedure and to further promote wide-ranging reforms in the area of economic policy in member states; strengthening the fight against fraud and tax evasion to avoid harmful tax practices and to explore the full benefits of the internal market; and finally, launching growth policies which support short and long-term financing of the economy and jobs creation, such as the commission EIB small and medium sized enterprises initiative.

During our presidency, we will also build our efforts to promote the importance of the democratic dimension of economic governance and the parliamentary involvement in the European semester process. In this respect, I am committed to attend and provide input to the high level inter-parliamentary conference on economic governance, to be held in January in Brussels, co-hosted by the European parliament and the Greek parliament.

We very much appreciate the important role that European parliament plays in legislating and producing common principles for the people of Europe. Parliament will be a critical partner in our endeavour and we will spare no effort in working with MEPs to build a high level of cooperation and advance pending legislation.

We consider that our pre-presidency engagement with the president of the European parliament Martin Schulz, the conference of presidents and the different political groups was extremely useful in enabling us to better understand parliament's agenda.

As chair of the Ecofin council, I am looking forward to address in January, the economic affairs committee of the parliament, to present the main priorities of the Greek presidency.

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