On 1 January, Greece has taken over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union from Lithuania. This is a role it will hold for six months and is holding for the fifth time since joining the EU in 1981.
While presenting its priorities, the Greek Presidency expressed its compliance to be a presidency of hope for a more expansive and improved Europe.
Within its programme, the Hellenic Presidency will be focussing, amongst other things, on alleviating unemployment and boosting job, deepening European and Eurozone economic governance, security of the common borders, including policies and initiatives for confronting illegal migration, as well as for promoting growth-oriented mobility within an area of freedom, security and justice.
As regards maritime transport, Greece recognises the vital role the multifaceted maritime sector must play in Europe’s recovery from the current crisis and its return to long-term sustainable growth and competitiveness within the global economy. Furthermore, the Greek Presidency has adopted a horizontal priority that overlaps all other focal points: an integrated EU maritime policy. This includes pursuing the adoption of an EU Maritime Security Strategy, as well as building the framework for “blue growth” in sectors from fisheries and tourism to transport, maritime spatial planning, and alternative forms of energy.
On 21 January, the European Parliament’s Transport and Tourism Committee (TRAN) had an exchange of views with the Greek Minister of Shipping, Maritime Affairs and the Aegean, Mr Miltiadis Varvitsiotis. He explained that one of the Greek Presidency pillars is the sea because the blue economy has great potential for growth and jobs, covering 5.4 million jobs. He asked for Parliament’s cooperation in having clean and up-to-date ships and added that they aim to bring the IMO closer with the EU for uniformity in the regulatory framework for shipping. The Greek Presidency would also seek progress in Council on the proposal for a Regulation establishing a framework on market access to port services and financial transparency of ports.
The TRAN Committee had also an exchange of views with the Greek Minister of Infrastructure, Transport and Networks, Mr Michalis Chrisochoidis.
The Minister presented the priorities of the Greek presidency in the field of land, air and inland waterway transport. The Fourth Railway Package also constitutes a priority for the Greek presidency, in particular its "technical pillar". The aim is to achieve a general approach in the Transport Council in March, or a political agreement depending on whether the Parliament gives its opinion before that date. After March, the Presidency intends to start political discussions on opening the rail market and there are plans to begin talks in the Council on PSOs. The Greek Presidency will also pursue deliberations with regard to the Weights and Dimensions Directive in view of reaching an agreement within the Council. With regard to inland waterway transport, the Greek presidency will seek a general approach on the proposal for a regulation on a Community fleet capacity policy, part of the NAIADES II package.
MEPs thanked the Greek presidency for its commitment to making progress on a number of legislative files, in spite of the limited time available due to the EP elections in May.