Greece takes the rotating 6 month Presidency of the Council of the European Union in January. What does that actually mean? Simply put, the President has a monopoly of introducing policy for the period. It allows them a once in fourteen year chance to get their national interests felt. Nevertheless, they will be subject to some ‘assistance’ in return for support from other countries – for example during the Cypriot Presidency, Denmark kindly offered to help them with Climate Policy.
While decisions made by the Council are subject to a consultation process with the European Parliament, a process known as Co-decision, the selection of the members of the Parliament to sit on the Committees is done in such a way that, while questions might be raised, it is predominantly a rubber-stamping exercise. The President has only six months to get their policy initiatives approved, so most of the horse-trading has been completed before the actual policy process begins.
Greek Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos presented their policy priorities in the following context in a Press Release in August 2013:
“The economic crisis forced the adoption of fiscal constraint policies aimed at ensuring financial stability and returning the economy to health. The extent and intensity of the crisis and the resulting recession and unemployment undermined the trust of a significant number of European citizens in the ability of the European edifice to implement credible and effective policy for a return to prosperity, economic recovery and a high level of employment.”
The priorities being:
- Jobs and Growth
- Further integration of the EU Eurozone
- Migration and Borders
It is not surprising that Greece, with punishing levels of youth unemployment, wants to focus policy on jobs, but a look at the text reveals how they want to go about it:
“The main objective is to balance the timetable of fiscal consolidation with the implementation of a substantially enhanced and realistic Compact for Growth and Jobs that can be transformed into a diverse European investment program, modeled after the cohesion policy, with a focus on employment. The European Investment Bank (EIB) can have a strong role in relation to the labour-intensive projects (e.g. projects for SMEs, basic infrastructure, energy and climate) with the support and trust of the European Central Bank (ECB).”
In other words it wants more money from the other Member States, and it wants the ECB to relax its budgetary constraints so that Greece can carry on issuing bonds for the Central bank to buy. This is economic madness, pure and simple.
In order to achieve further integration of the EU Eurozone the Greeks propose:
“The main objective is to safeguard the stability of the common currency by advancing the deepening of the EMU and the ex-ante coordination of national fiscal and economic policies.”
But this does not make any sense, as they are suggesting that the policies will have to be preemptive. This is clearly not the case, as Greece has been stuck in a Depression since 2007, so the policies cannot be said to be ex-ante. Rather this is a retrospective begging bowl being passed around. Moreover, the suggestion is quite clearly here that this is a Pan-Eurozone issue and that if the Council does not acquiesce, then the ‘project’ could derail. The mentioning of safeguarding the stability it clearly an attempt to coerce.
Most worryingly they propose that: “Special emphasis will be attached to the social dimension of the EMU, as one of the pillars for its further deepening.” Social dimensions are impossible to measure, there can be no metric, so here Greece is opening up a bottomless pit to be filled with Euro slush to tackle ‘social issues’. Hilariously they state: “At the same time, we will need to lay the foundations for an institutional structure that ensures enhanced transparency, accountability and representation for the whole exercise.” While stable doors and horses bolting spring immediately to mind, it is vital to note that they are proposing another set of regulations, which of course will be gamed just like every other set of EU rules.
The Greek initiatives on migration and borders will, in all likelihood, be a sop to Golden Dawn as:
“In this context, the Greek Presidency will concentrate its efforts on highlighting the positive aspects of a comprehensive migration management to the benefit of boosting growth and will spare no efforts in promoting all dimensions of migration and mobility policies. At the same time, action is envisaged to tackle the problems arising from illegal migration in economy, social cohesion and political stability.”
There is not a great deal that can be said there as inter EU migration cannot be controlled, but Greece is reserving the right to deal with illegal immigrants as it sees fit, with EU funded assistance of course.