Brussels, 18 March 2014

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Venizelos’ statements following the EU General Affairs Council of 18 March 2014, in Brussels


E. VENIZELOS: Today’s meeting of the General Affairs Council looked principally at the preparations for the Spring European Council, which will be taking place later this week, on 20 and 21 March.

The main focus of this European Council will be the economy, including Growth, Competitiveness and Jobs, which, of course, is also the top priority of the Hellenic Presidency. Energy issues will also figure at the top of the agenda.

Enhancing industrial competitiveness, as a precondition for economic growth and job creation, is, as I said, a key priority for the Greek Presidency and for all European societies at this time, just before the European elections.

Our aim is to closely monitor the implementation of the upcoming European Council Conclusions and keep our focus on applying policies that will boost growth and create jobs.

The situation in Ukraine was discussed thoroughly in yesterday’s Foreign Affairs Council, and the European leaders will continue the discussion at the European Council. But also during the luncheon, in the presence of the President of the European Council Mr. Herman Van Rompuy, the Council, under the configuration of General Affairs, had the opportunity to repeat this debate on Ukraine. We also examined our relations with Africa in the context of the preparations for the upcoming EU- Africa summit.

The Greek Presidency places particular emphasis on the strengthening of EU cooperation with African states, not only on development and trade, but also on migration and safety issues, including maritime safety.

At today’s meeting, we took an in-depth look at the Presidency Synthesis Report on the discussions and key messages of the various Council configurations in the framework of the Annual Growth survey and with regard to the 2014 European Semester process.

The report provided us with a broad picture of the steps that need to be taken to implement the Europe 2020 strategy, highlighting the most crucial points, with a focus on implementation, emerging results, and the areas where progress is lacking, despite commitments at the EU level.

And, based on the draft Conclusions the Council finalized today, the EU-28 heads of state and government are expected to conclude the first phase of the European Semester when they meet later this week.

Institutional matters were also on the Council’s agenda today. Following the recent Commission Communication on the Rule of Law, we had a first exchange of views on the fundamental values of the EU, in the interest of ensuring that they are effectively protected and respected within the member-states.

Finally, during the luncheon with President Herman Van Rompuy we had the opportunity, on the one hand, to review issues related to the preparations and agenda for the European Council and, on the other hand, to have a very fruitful discussion of the principle of subsidiarity, based on a Presidency paper and following interventions made by individual member states at previous Council meetings.

This is my statement and my briefing on the today’s General Affair Council. I am at your disposal for some questions.

JOURNALIST: It’s not a matter of the General Affairs Council, but I want to welcome Mr Venizelos for the principle agreement between his country and the international lenders and I would like to hear his opinion about that.

E. VENIZELOS: This Staff-Level Agreement is a positive evolution. For us, the main issue is always to break the vicious cycle regarding the capability and the willingness of Greece, of our society, of our people to finalize the implementation of the adjustment program.

We are now in position to present very impressive fiscal results, The primary surplus of Greece is the best worldwide, not only in the European Union and the euro zone, but worldwide. And this is our main argument for the organization, for the preparation of the last chain of this very difficult procedure towards our return to normalcy. Because now the main target of Greece is to regain the status of a normal European state. On the same, on an equal level with the other members states of the European Union, and especially of the euro zone.

JOURNALIST: I am asking the Presidency, aren’t you afraid that the Ukrainian situation will steal the show in the Summit, as happened many times when there is a huge thematic subject and suddenly something else happens and takes a large part of final energy and in this respect, you mentioned that it was discussed during the luncheon to some extent. What was the feeling? What was the main contribution to the debate?

E. VENIZELOS: Undoubtedly, we are before an escalation of the crisis in Ukraine. The conclusions of the Foreign Affairs Council yesterday were the codification of the European position, which very clear, very strong, but also very constructive.

The European position is always founded on the basis of some principles, like respect for the international legal order, but also the need of safeguard the stability, the regional stability, and of course the peace on our European continent.

I am not now in a position to present a prediction about the decisions of the upcoming European Council, but our principle is very clear, our strategy is always the same. The European Union is ready to participate in a constructive diplomatic and political discussion initiative, but always within the framework of International Law and respect for, first of all, the principle of territorial integrity and, second, the principle of the respect for the existing borders – this is something vital and essential for our continent.



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