EU presidency a major challenge for troubled Greece

Greece took over the rotating six-month presidency of the European Union on Wednesday January 1 2014. The country takes over at the helm of the bloc from Lithuania, as it still attempts to deal with the ongoing financial crisis.

In its fifth EU presidency since joining the bloc in 1981, Athens plans to host 14 ministerial meetings and another 120 related gatherings in the first six months of 2014 as it gets to set EU priorities.

Even the country’s budget for holding the EU presidency, 50 million euro, reflects the abysmal state of the Greek economy as it stands at its nadir in the history of the EU.

Officially, 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. Migration is another issue that looms large in Greece’s agenda for the presidency.

The Greek presidency also has ambitions to further develop economic governance in the euro zone and it will also seek to revamp the EU’s strategy on maritime affairs, as well as kicking off talks on a possible Commission proposal on regulating shale gas exploration.

Besides the official goals, the next six months have a much wider significance for the Greek government and the prime minister himself. Samaras views the six-month post as an opportunity to send a message that Greece is well on the road to recovery and taking its European credentials seriously.

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(Photo: Trine Juel/