Venizelos sees 'ambitious but feasible' goals for Greece's EU presidency

Greece assumes the European Union’s six-month rotating presidency on New Year’s Day, with Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos pledging that Athens’s targets between now and June are “ambitious but feasible”.

“The Hellenic Presidency will also be an institutional voice in the crucial political conversation Europe will be carrying out over the next five months,” said Venizelos in a statement as Greece took on the EU baton from Lithuania.

Greek priorities will be creating jobs, deepening European governance, including working towards a banking union, and fighting irregular immigration, said the PASOK leader.

He also emphasized Greece’s interest in developing an “integrated EU maritime policy,” which Greece sees as key to its goal of drilling for natural gas in its continental shelf.

“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,” he said.

The motto of the relatively low key Greek presidency, which is projected to cost no more than 50 million euros, is “United we sail further”.

Greece’s main challenge will be to balance its presidency duties with domestic economic pressures and the ongoing negotiations with the troika.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras sought to strike a positive not in his New Year’s address, saying that Greece would exit its EU-IMF bailout in 2014.

"In 2014, Greece will venture out to the markets again and start becoming a normal country,» he said.

"In the new year, Greek debt will be officially declared viable, meaning there will be no need for new loans and new bailout agreements."