Greek presidency highlights 'necessity' of EU-wide reform

'Green growth' and 'resource efficiency' key to addressing Europe's economic and financial situations, says Yannis Maniatis.

By Yannis Maniatis

07 Jan 2014

The upcoming 2014 Greek presidency is a major challenge not just for Greece but also for Europe and its institutions. At a time of urgent and crucial questions raised on the future of European Union, Greece should turn the spotlight again towards principles that unified nations and made Europe a strong player in the global scene. In this context, we will try to set the priorities for environment, energy and climate change, while putting people and sustainable development at the centre of our actions.

Greece seeks to put growth and job creation, especially for young Europeans, at the heart of debate. As a member state since 1981, Greece highlights the necessity of reforms that can bring new investments to Europe, with special care given to environmental protection, the quality of the natural environment and the sustainable management of natural resources. Therefore, we will push issues such as the energy and climate change 2030 targets, industrial energy costs, protection of vulnerable consumers, energy security and energy saving.

At the same time, Greece underlines issues such as protection of European biodiversity, 'blue' development and maritime spatial planning that offer opportunities for investment and employment. Our aim is also to help the EU focus on sustainability issues and try to put it in line with horizontal 'greening' in all sectors (rural development, tourism, industry, etc.). Naturally, in order to achieve our goals, we intend to work closely with Italy which succeeds Greece at the presidency of the council of the European Union.

The Greek presidency will pursue efforts for further promoting environmental integration with the view to fostering harmonious, balanced and sustainable development with economic activities that respect the need to safeguard a high level of environmental protection. To achieve this, the presidency seeks to promote policies and legislation that aim at preserving the quality of the environment based inter alia on the precautionary and the polluter pays principles, human health, the prudent and rational utilisation of natural resources and the promotion of measures at international level to effectively deal with regional and global environmental challenges, especially in the context of the Rio+20 follow up. The environment, within the wider umbrella of sustainable development, will be the key issue in the Greek presidency's agenda. The challenges posed by the current economic and financial situation cannot be addressed effectively in the long term without a continuing emphasis on green growth and resource efficiency. Thus, our environmental policy objective during the presidency will remain the effort to secure a high level of environmental protection that can also stimulate sustainable economic growth.

What's more, 2014 will be the year of the completion of the internal energy market. The Greek presidency will also be associated in several ways with the European council of March 2014, which will be devoted to the review of the European 2020 strategy and to the consideration of the energy and climate framework for 2030. The priorities of the Greek presidency are largely determined by two landmark dates for the development of the EU's energy strategy, namely the 2014 deadline set for completing the internal market and the 2015 deadline by which no member state should remain isolated from Europe's gas and electricity networks.

The Greek presidency will seek to move forward the EU's energy and climate policies post 2020 and the adaptation of a 2030 framework for climate and energy policies. The timely establishment of a 2030 framework is vital in order to give investors security regarding the objectives and policies which will be in effect, to mobilise funding and ensure that the corresponding research and innovation is undertaken to support these new goals. In view of the 2015 international climate change agreement, delineating a clear position will facilitate the EU's ability to engage actively with partners and assume a prominent and constructive role in the process. Greece's approach will be pragmatic in order to determine the type, nature and level of the 2030 targets enabling the EU to meet its long-term climate goals while taking into account the ongoing economic crisis, the varying capacities of member states and household concerns over energy affordability and businesses over competitiveness.

Moreover, the presidency intends to place particular priority on promoting actions and exchanging best practices to enable consumers to fully benefit and exercise their rights and choices, as well as on ensuring that vulnerable consumers are adequately protected. In this respect, the presidency will prioritise the importance of energy efficiency improvements as a cost-effective form of assistance in addressing consumer vulnerability and energy poverty. Availability of affordable energy for households and competitive prices for businesses are also key issues for the success of the internal market and they constitute a priority for the Greek presidency.

[pullquote]Our priorities reflect the anxieties of European societies and of course of Greek society[/pullquote]. We need growth, jobs – especially for the youth, protection of the European welfare state and the environment. This is a vital need for all nations. For Greece there is only one way: to succeed.