By H.E. Mr. Grigorios VASSILOCONSTANDAKIS , Ambassador of the Hellenic Republic
Europe’s Day seems to be the best opportunity for us to look ahead and proceed to an assessment on the state of play, the perspectives and the trends within our common family home, the European Union.
In my capacity as Ambassador of the Hellenic Republic to Romania, representing, therefore, the country which ensures the Presidency of the EU Council for the current first half of the year, I have the feeling that it is important to keep in mind the significance of this remembrance day.
And I found it expedient to refer myself to a series of thoughts, as well as to an initial assessment on the current state of play.
Greece assumed the Presidency at a time when Europe is going through an extremely delicate phase. Indeed, the extent and intensity of the economic crisis over the last few years, as well as the social repercussions and the level of the recession and unemployment in certain member-states, have shaken the confidence of an important segment of European citizens in EU Institutions and greatly affected the social cohesion.
Moreover, each Presidency is a dynamic process: new challenges are emerging. The crisis in Ucraine and our Eastern Neighborhood is of major importance for the E.U. These ongoing challenges have to be dealt with in a coordinated matter and need decisive work. We, the Hellenic Presidency, the member-states, together with the European institutions, are working to highlight the European path of the countries of our neighborhood that wish to follow it. One example is Ucraine. With the Republic of Moldova we have done many steps forward: the visa regime liberalization was signed few days ago in Athens, a month sooner than expected, and the SAA as well as the DCFTA are to be signed soon. The european path is open to all those who wish to follow it respecting and implementing the EU rules and fulfilling all criteria set.
In this context, it is worth mentioning that the Hellenic Presidency remains committed to the enlargement policy. I would like to mention a happy coincidence: the EU Hellenic Presidency and the Romanian Chairmanship of the SEECP. This is a clear example of coordinated work, where the EU meets the regional cooperation in a win-win situation. Taking stock of the Thessaloniki Agenda 2013, a pillar of our work towards the integration of the counties of the Western Balkans in the EU when fulfilling all their obligations, we are working together with Romania to emphasize the European prospect of the Western Balkans.
This year, in May 2014, all EU member-states citizens, will elect their representatives. They will elect the new members of the European Parliament. It is a year of special importance. The euro-elections is a challenge and an opportunity for all European citizens.
The Lisbon Treaty gave the European Parliament new lawmaking powers: it now decides on the vast majority of EU legislation. Over 40 new and very important fields come under the procedure for co-decision by Parliament and the Council of Ministers, including agriculture, energy policy, immigration and EU funds. These topics are of vital importance.
The Parliament has now the last say on the EU budget. The rise in legislative powers for the European Parliament represents almost a doubling in power. From now on, the Parliament will decide on the entire EU budget together with the Council of Ministers. Until now, it did not have the final word on “compulsory expenditure” (around 45% of the EU budget) such as spending relating to agriculture or international agreements. This now changes as the Parliament becomes responsible for the entire EU budget, together of course with EU governments.
The Parliament must also give its permission for other important decisions, such as allowing new countries to join the EU.
For the first time, the composition of the new European Parliament will determine who will lead the next European Commission. Under the new rules, EU government leaders, who will propose a candidate for the post of the future Commission President, must do so on the basis of the election results and equilibrium. The European Parliament will elect the new Commission President by a majority of the component members.