Greece Ready to Take over EU Presidency
Greece, whose continued membership of the European Union (EU) appeared far from certain at the start of 2013, will assume the presidency of the EU’s Council of Ministers from 1 January 2014.
Antonis Samaras, Greece’s prime minister, has identified growth, employment and social cohesion as the country’s main priorities for its six-month long presidency. Greece will hand the presidency over to Italy on 1 July 2014.
In particular, Greece will push member states to fulfil their commitments from mid-2013 to increase the availability of credit to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and to provide funds for getting unemployed young people back into work.
However, some believe that the presidency could be overshadowed by Greece’s efforts to emerge from a six-year long recession while complying with the terms its two international bailouts, worth €246bn. The terms of the bailout package require the Greek government – which enjoys a majority of only two in parliament – to continue its austerity programme of deep cuts in public spending.
The European Commission (EC) predicts that Greece’s economy will again contract in 2014, for a seventh year of recession, before growing slowly in 2015.
The Greek presidency could also be overshadowed by discussions between the government and its international creditors – the EC, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – on a potential third bailout, or by domestic challenges to the government, in particular due to social unrest as a result of the economic crisis.