Growth, employment and promoting social cohesion will be Greece’s priorities during its 6-month presidency of the EU, which started on New Year’s Day.
The Greek presidency's top priorities are
• tackling the major problem of youth unemployment
• increasing the availability of credit to small and medium-sized businesses.
Its other aims include improving economic governance in the eurozone and concluding negotiations on the next stage of banking union. The main aim here is to prevent a repeat of the recent financial crisis.
Greece also wants to step up EU action on illegal migration and make changes to EU strategy in the fields of maritime affairs and data protection legislation. Another issue on the agenda is reaching agreement on the use of first-generation biofuels and shale gas.
An important summit with African countries is scheduled to take place during the Greek presidency, and it is hoped that progress will be made on a new fishing agreement with Morocco.
Greece takes over the EU presidency at a particularly busy time, as agreements on a wide range of issues are needed before the end of the current European Parliament in April. Direct elections to Parliament will follow in all 28 countries in May, after which a new Commission will be selected.
Over the next 6 months, Greece will chair hundreds of formal and informal meetings, provide a lead for complex negotiations and host 13 ministerial councils in Athens.
In recent months Greece has worked closely alongside Lithuania, which held the EU presidency for the second half of 2013. In July 2014 Greece will hand over the presidency baton to Italy, which will welcome the new members of the Parliament and the Commission.