Europe, democracy and pragmatism: Greece's legacy to the world
Europe, democracy and pragmatism: three things we all owe to Greece. This was the message of European Commission President José Manuel Barroso to the Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in the European Parliament on 15 January as MEPs debated the priorities for the Greek presidency of the EU.
Less than a year ago, there were many naysayers predicting that Greece's problems would push it out of the euro or even out of the EU altogether, President Barroso said. And yet thanks to the collective sacrifices and efforts of the Greek people, the country that gave birth to European democracy is still very much part of the EU, and has just begun its fifth presidency of the Union.
Speaking at the end of the lengthy debate, Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič echoed President's Barroso's sentiments, stressing that the Commission had always supported the efforts of Greek citizens to fight the crisis and that it had never considered 'Grexit' to be possibility.
Greece had come back from the brink, he said, thanks to the Greek people working hard to reform their economy and society, and thanks to the resilience, solidarity and determination of everyone in Europe to support them in those efforts.
And he stressed that suggestions from some MEPs that the euro itself was to blame for Greece's problems were entirely unfounded. Those problems had also been seen in many other European countries, including several that were not part of the single currency, showing that root and branch reform of economic governance and management was the only way to recovery.
VP Šefčovič also took part in the debate on the Lithuanian Presidency on 14 January, celebrating the achievements of the Baltic state's first time at the EU helm. (video closing remarks)
He praised the Lithuanians for brokering agreements on some of the most divisive issues, not least the next seven-year EU budget or MFF, which was agreed in time for it to come into force on 1 January this year.
Progress was also made on the banking union under the Lithuanian Presidency, although VP Šefčovič warned that the inter-governmental agreement on bank resolutions brokered by Vilnius would not be enough to satisfy citizens' demands for tighter regulation of the banking sector. He stressed that the Commission would continue to work under the Greek Presidency to reach a final solution that was more broadly based on the Community method.