Greece Sets Jan. 1 EU Presidency Agenda: Jobs, Immigration Tops

Samaras with Barroso

With beleaguered Greece set to assume the symbolic rotating six-month European Union Presidency on Jan. 1 as it struggles with its lingering economic woes, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said he will try to make it worthwhile and said that it will be one of “opportunities, not a presidency of crisis.”

Samaras said the key priorities for Greece to emphasize, although the post is essentially powerless, are job creation, monetary union, the fight on illegal immigration and Europe’s maritime policy.

The comments were made during a joint conference with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, following a meeting between a Greek government delegation and the EU’s 28-member College of Commissioners.

The meeting, also attended by Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, among other top Greek officials, was part of Greece’s preparation for the rotating presidency.

“Greek people have made immense, incredible sacrifices to get us here,” said Samaras adding that the structural changes carried out in the country were necessary to implement despite the crisis if Greece wants to become more competitive. While he hasn’t yet been successful in turning around the Greek economy, Samaras said it was important for the country to show it can be a capable EU leader during its term.

Next year will be crucial time for Europe as key legislation will be finalized ahead of the European Parliament elections, Barroso said, adding that the upcoming Greek presidency’s priorities would allow EU members to “sail together for sustainable growth and job creation.”

Barroso also said that the country’s six month leadership would also have a role to play in boosting trade.

“Europe would not be Europe today without Greece,” said Barroso, highlighting the southern Mediterranean country’s past but also its current efforts to overcome its debt crisis and ongoing recession.