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President Barroso: Upcoming presidency a 'great opportunity' for Greece

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President Barroso has welcomed Greece's upcoming Presidency of the Council of Ministers as a "great opportunity" for the country, and said the Commission will offer all its support to make it a success.

"I hope and believe that the Greek presidency is going to be a great opportunity to show that Greece is not only able to solve its problems with European solidarity, but Greece is also able to give an important contribution to the European project," President Barroso said, following a joint press conference with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras of Greece.

President Barroso was speaking after a series of meetings between the college of commissioners and several members of the Greek government ahead of Greece's Presidency in January 2014. "I assured Prime Minister Samaras and the Greek government of our full support over the next six months for this Presidency, and I was glad to hear from him that Greece's priorities are largely in step with our own," President Barroso said. "This is a crucial time for Europe as we seek to finalise key pieces of legislation before the European elections in May."

On the economy, President Barroso paid tribute to the progress made by Greece under the EU-IMF financial assistance programme, and said the "hard work is paying off", with the economy expected to return to growth next year. "Greece was very close to insolvency some time ago, very close to a real and extremely difficult situation, from an economic and social point of view. I know that it was with great sacrifices, but Greece can now look to the future, somehow with more confidence," President Barroso said. "I really want to tell you that I very much appreciate the determination shown by the Greek citizens and the Greek authorities during this exceptionally difficult time, and I want you to know that the Commission stands by Greece and the efforts of the Greek people to build a better future."

He added that the crisis gave Greece a different perspective on the Presidency.  "With the lessons learned from this crisis, Greece can also lead the European Union, bringing its special sensitivity to so many problems, from the Balkans to maritime policy, which Greece knows much better than most of our Member States," he said.

The President also highlighted Greece's contribution to European - and world - civilisation. "Europe would not be Europe today without the contribution of Greece, from philosophy to mathematics, from theatre to literature – the world would not be the same. And this is a debt, a very profound debt that we have all in our civilisation to Greece," he said.

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