Barroso gives upbeat message at launch of EU Greek presidency


Anti-EU protesters give Commissioners warm welcome for EU handover ceremony.

Athens provided the backdrop for the inauguration of the Greek presidency of the EU on Wednesday night, as leaders of its government and the European Commission gave sunny, if cautious, assessments of the economy, Euronews reports.
The Greek prime minister said the six month period would be spent promoting economic revival, fighting unemployment and strengthening social cohesion. “Greece, after enormous sacrifices, is leaving the crisis behind. Europe is leaving the crisis behind. But of course, all problems are not solved yet, and there’s still a lot to do,” Antonis Samaras said. He added that Greece would focus on trying to reconnect European citizens to the EU.
The European Commission president said despite the crisis he did not think extremist or populist parties would win the European elections in May.
While warning Greece not to slow the pace of reform, he paid tribute to the sacrifices of the Greek people – which he said had paid off.
“Let’s not forget that not so much time ago people where making speculations about Greek exit, about the implosion of the euro, about the implosion of the EU. So the fact that we are here is clear evidence that those predictions where wrong,” José Manuel Barroso said.
Over 5000 police were in Athens to ensure that the presidency ceremony went off without disruption, but that did not prevent Greeks coming out to let the visiting EU representatives know what they thought about Brussels’ formula for getting their country out of trouble. The leaders of the left and right wing parties did not attend.
“The European Union is the main mechanism for the imposition of austerity, for the
imposition of extreme measures against the working majority in most European countries. The European Union is responsible for the acute humanitarian and social crisis in Greece,” said one protester.
As tempers flared clashes took place with police. Protests had been banned near the ceremony, and when crowds tried to get to the presidential palace, they were forced back with tear gas.

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