A Herculean task

Nieuws | de redactie
6 februari 2014 | A year ago, Greece’s position within the EU seemed uncertain and discussion of their possible exit from the union was rife. Now, they have stepped up to the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU. This Hellenic presidency may be a first step towards repairing their “weakest link” reputation.

The three priority areas of the Hellenic presidency will be; “Growth-Jobs-Cohesion”, “Further integration of the Eurozone” and “Migration-Borders-Mobility”. The theme of “Maritime Policies” is planned to  run through each of the other priorities. The Greek Presidency will also be trying to reinforce the common sentiment that Greece remains an integral part of the European Union.

Record high unemployment needs drastic solutions

The labour market situation in Greece is very difficult with unemployment reaching 27.6 percent in 2013. Youth unemployment is even higher and made international news when it reached 60 percent last year. It is then unsurprising that increasing numbers of young Greeks are choosing to emigrate abroad in search of employment, particularly to other European States.

Many Greeks currently study abroad, almost 6 percent of the country’s total student body, and very few of them consider returning to Greece after graduation. The importance of education and training in promptly tackling the problem cannot be underestimated and will be a main focus of this presidency.

The economic crisis boosted a reform of Greece’s higher education  system, the Greek College Principal Vangelis Tsigirilis analysed in a research paper from 2012. Maybe the same can be done in Europe, for example on the Pan-European recognition of degrees and skills.

Under the Lithuanian presidency at the end of 2013, the European Council established the €14.7 billion Erasmus+ programme. This combines activities previously covered by separate programmes including the Lifelong Learning Programme, Erasmus Mundus and Youth in Action and is a 40 percent increase on the previous budget. Promoting and moving forwards with this is a top priority for the Hellenic presidency.

European leader in the field of research, innovation and science

One of the key priorities in research over the coming months will be the implementation of Horizon 2020, the EU’s Framework Programme for Research and Innovation which will run for the next seven years. The Greek Presidency also has other science and technology priorities, including international Science and Technological agreements, advancing the European Research Area and completion of the Innovative Investment Package.

The Greece Presidency have a commitment to supporting European businesses to produce, use and disseminate research and development results in accordance with research undertaken in European universities and research organisations. The Greeks also highlighted their prioritisation of Copernicus, a programme for European capacity for earth observation, and the initiative “EU-Balkan Countries Action Plan for Science and Technology”.

Horizon 2020: an investment in Europe’s future

Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever, with nearly €80 billion of funding available from 2014 until 2020. The Greek Presidency will be ensuring the implementation of this programme while highlighting its catalytic role for Europe. The goals are to ensure that Europe produces world-class science, to remove red-tape barriers to innovation and to make it easier for public and private sectors to work together in delivering innovation.

It is aimed at securing Europe’s global competitiveness as well as being a means to drive economic growth and create jobs. It’s hoped that the money will attract private investment while providing more breakthroughs, discoveries and world firsts.  Overall this tool of the EU is looking to tackle the crisis through the development of a “knowledge-based economy”.

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) will be supported across the Horizon 2020 priorities and in fact their participation will be encouraged. A new SME instrument will fill gaps in funding for early-stage, high-risk research and innovation by SMEs as well as stimulating breakthrough innovations with a bottom-up approach. It will target all types of innovative SMEs showing a strong ambition to develop, grow and internationalise. Finally, it will provide support to all types of innovation given that each activity has a clear European added-value.


Copernicus is the European Earth monitoring system. Copernicus consists of an intricate set of systems which collect data from multiple sources, earth observation satellites and in situ sensors such as ground stations, airborne and seaborne sensors. Part of the programme involves the processing of these data to provide users with reliable and up-to-date information through a set of services related to environmental and security issues. Policymakers and public authorities will be the main users of the services as they need the information to develop environmental legislation and policies or to take critical decisions in the event of an emergency.

The European Space Agency takes responsibility for the space component of this observation infrastructure and the in situ component is handled by the European Environment Agency and the Member States. It is claimed that new business opportunities will be created through this programme and the potential for job creation, innovation and growth has already been highlighted in a report by the European Commission.

A tall order

The Greek presidency are setting themselves no easy task. To work through as many of their aims and priorities as they can while convincing the rest of Europe that they are still a strong and competent part of the union. On top of all this the presidency will be operating under a shoestring budget of only €50 million to avoid sending the wrong message. This is considerably less than other countries have spent previously. Only time will tell how many of the Hellenic presidency priorities are achievable.

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