Greece appeared encouraged by the conclusions of the European Union leaders’ summit which came to a close in Brussels on Friday, as a number of key issues of particular interest to Athens, such as maritime security, were placed on the agenda.
The rotating six-month presidency of the 28-member bloc passes to Greece on January 1 and Prime Minister Antonis Samaras was keen to stress that the country is being thrust into the spotlight at a time that he believes it is in good shape.
“The presidency begins with the best signs as we are no longer with our backs against the wall,” he said. “We have reached the end of the journey: The Greek economy is coming out of recession after six years. We will be starting the new year with a primary surplus, with our public finances in order and having healed our damaged reputation.”
Samaras stressed in particular his satisfaction that the European Council had made reference to the issue of maritime security in the summit conclusions and had made a commitment to adopting a strategy on this issue by the time Greece’s presidency finishes in June.
“New security challenges continue to emerge,” said the Council’s conclusions. “Europe’s internal and external security dimensions are increasingly interlinked. To enable the EU and its member states to respond, in coherence with NATO efforts, the European Council calls for… an EU Maritime Security Strategy by June 2014… and the subsequent elaboration of action plans to respond to maritime challenges.”
Greece believes that this could help it bring down the cost of patrolling its long shoreline, while also helping combat migrant trafficking. Athens also wants to advance discussions on a common EU approach toward the issue of exclusive economic zones (EEZ). Settling the pending issue of its EEZ is one of the biggest obstacles in Greek-Turkish relations.
Samaras said he was also pleased by the EU leaders’ commitment to tackling irregular immigration. “We have gone from announcements to actions,” said the Greek premier after he and his counterparts approved a list of 38 “operational actions” proposed by the European Commission. Samaras gave the example of the Seahorse Network, which foresees Mediterranean countries cooperating in the exchange of information and expertise to combat clandestine migration.