Friday

15th Dec 2017

Greece hoping for peaceful launch of EU presidency

  • Greece's EU presidency comes as the country shows fragile signs of recovery from its economic and social crisis (Photo: gr2014.eu)

The European Commission's top brass is set for a muted reception on Wednesday (8 January) as the EU executive gathers in Athens for the launch of Greece's six month presidency of the EU.

After more than four years of near constant crisis, recession, and a tough austerity programme enforced as part of a €240 billion bailout, public support for the EU is low.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

A Gallup poll published Wednesday showed that approval for EU leadership among Greek citizens is at 13 percent, down from 32 percent in 2010.

Wary of the prospect of public protests, Greek authorities have imposed an 18 hour ban on protests in the centre of Athens on Wednesday in a bid to ensure that the launch passes peacefully.

On Wednesday morning the national parliament and government buildings were surrounded by baton wielding riot police.

The presidency comes with Greece potentially at a turning point.

The country that still best symbolises the eurozone's sovereign debt crisis expects to see a return to economic growth in 2014 after six years of recession that has wiped out more than 25 percent of the country's economic output.

Greece is now running a healthy current account surplus. Meanwhile, it is getting closer to being able to return to finance itself on the markets. Interest rates on ten-year Greek bonds now stand at 8 percent compared with 13 percent this time last year.

Prime minister Antonis Samaras says that Greece will continue its 'comeback' in 2014. The unemployment rate - currently the highest in the EU at 27 percent - will start to fall this year, he said.

But its recovery, both economic and political, is still perilously fragile. Greece's debt level stands at around 180 percent of GDP and most analysts believe that Athens will need either an extra loan or a debt write-off worth around €10 billion at some point over the next six months.

According to finance minister Yannis Stournaras, the annual income of the average Greek worker has fallen by 35 percent.

The governing coalition of centre-right and centre-left parties also holds a slim parliamentary majority and the awareness that public tolerance of further austerity measures is close to breaking point.

Opinion polls put the leftist Syriza party fractionally ahead of the centre-right New Democracy with 22.5 percent and 20 percent respectively, while support for the neo-Nazi group Golden Dawn party stands at 11 percent, leaving them in third place.

Meanwhile, the once dominant socialist Pasok party is struggling on 5 percent, less than three years after it held a parliamentary majority.

Syriza promises that it would tear up the Memorandum of Understanding agreed between the Greek government and its creditors and put in place a new 'National Programme' marked by public works and higher taxes on the wealthy.

Aside from making further progress as its bailout package enters its second phase, completing the single resolution mechanism for banks will be the main legislative priority for the Greek presidency.

Ministers agreed their position on new rules to wind up failing banks in the final week before Christmas, but negotiations with the European Parliament will start this week.

Analysis

EU mulls post-Brexit balance of euro and non-eurozone states

Brexit will dramatically change the balance between EU members states that have the euro and those that don't. The thinking on the future of the eurozone is done at EU-27 level - but opposing camps will have to be reconciled.

News in Brief

  1. Juncker: May made 'big efforts' on Brexit
  2. Merkel took 'tough' line on Russia at EU summit
  3. EU leaders added line supporting 'two-state' solution
  4. EU leaders agree to 20 European Universities by 2024
  5. Belgian courts end legal proceedings against Puigdemont
  6. French central bank lifts 2017 growth forecast
  7. EU leaders set to move Brexit talks on to next stage
  8. EU leaders confirm support for two-state solution

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  2. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% plastics recycling rate attainable by 2025 new study shows
  3. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  4. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  5. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  6. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  10. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  12. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties

Latest News

  1. Dutchman to lead powerful euro working group
  2. EU mulls post-Brexit balance of euro and non-eurozone states
  3. EU asylum debate reopens old wounds
  4. Estonia completes two out of three priority digital bills
  5. EU countries are not 'tax havens', parliament says
  6. Tech firms' delays mean EU needs rules for online terror
  7. Slovak PM: Human rights are not a travel pass to EU
  8. British PM limps to EU capital after Brexit defeat