Meeting of the EPP Group Presidency and Heads of National Delegations in Athens

07.03.2013 - 09:30
- 08.03.2013 - 12:30
Last Updated: 12.03.2013 - 15:46
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Welcome speeches
Joseph DAUL, MEP, Chairman of the EPP Group in the European Parliament (EP)
Athanasios Bouras, Secretary-General of the Nea Demokratia Parliamentary Group
Marietta GIANNAKOU, MEP, Head of the Greek Delegation of the EPP Group in the EP
Joseph DAUL, MEP, Chairman of the EPP Group in EP
Antonis Samaras, Prime Minister of Greece
Press Conference
The meeting will be followed by an internal discussion on economic, social and institutional recovery of the European Union, political, economic and social reforms in Greece, securing external borders, and the European Neighbourhood Policy.
Official Conclusions

Towards an economic, social and institutional recovery of the European Union and Political, economic and social reforms in Greece

Europe has shown its solidarity with Greece and the EPP Group demonstrated its commitment to the country's steep reform process through its high-level meeting in Athens this week. Discussions focused on the political, economic and social situation, Members being particularly concerned about efforts to help young people who are most threatened by unemployment, giving them a perspective in their own country. The panel was chaired by EPP Group Vice-Chairman Jaime Mayor Oreja, with statements by Kostas Hatzidakis, Minister for Development, Competitiveness, Infrastructure, Transport and Networks, Panayotis Thomopoulos, Former Vice-Governor of the Bank of Greece, Former President of the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund, Horst Reichenbach, Head of the EU Task Force for Greece, European Commission), Konstantinos Poupakis MEP, Member of the EP Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, former Secretary-General of the General Confederation of Greek Workers, with the conclusions presented by Marietta Giannakou MEP, Head of the Greek Delegation in the EPP Group.

2012 has been a very hard year for Greek citizens, but thanks to the serious and very brave efforts of the government led by Antonis Samaras, the last year has also been the turning point. There are first, encouraging signals. International competitiveness is improving, privatisation is advancing, fiscal paths are adhered to and administrative reform is taking shape. This allows regaining credibility, which is fundamental for growth. On this basis, exports can be stimulated. This newly-created trust is proven by the fact that ex-patriated capital is returning to the country. This, combined with the consolidation of the banking sector, will help lead the country out of the 'liquidity trap', allowing banks to recapitalise and fulfil their vital role for the real economy, in particular SMEs.

But lasting reforms - as thorough as they may be - can only provide a sustainable basis if democratic forces stand together and fend off populist propositions that would have only a placebo effect and not be a long-term cure.

Over the past months, the European Union has also made sound progress in addressing the necessary regulation of financial markets and in strengthening its fiscal framework, proving that the Euro is irreversible and that there is determination in all institutions. Over the past decades, Europe has proven that it can master challenges if it stands together. Only a united Europe can internationally compete with other global economic powers to safeguard our European model of the social market economy.

Despite these signs of hope, the crisis is certainly not over yet for Greece, nor for the Euro area as a whole. But there is reason for optimism provided that momentum is not lost.

K. Wynands

Securing external borders: responsibility and security

  • With the increasing mobility of people, the European Union faces new challenges: illegal immigration is a global issue, not just a single county problem.
  • The competence for border management is shared between the Union and the Member States. Member States remain responsible for controlling their own external borders while the EU defines the legal framework and establishes mechanisms for cooperation and financial support.
  • We need to preserve the integrity on an area without internal border controls within the Schengen area by maintaining a high level of security at the external borders. While implementing control at the external borders, fundamental rights must be fully respected and it must be ensured that border controls and access to international protection for refugees are compatible and supportive.
  • The EPP Group fully supports a common legal framework dealing with the conditions of entry, stay and the status and rights of migrants .There is a need to enable fluent border crossings and facilitate the entry of bona fide travellers while enhancing security to eliminate abuses and the fight against human trafficking.
  • Greece has made big efforts in the control of its external borders taking into consideration their extensive length. The number of illegal immigrants has been substantially reduced.
  • Efforts must continue and broad cooperation with the neighbourhood countries is needed. In this field, Turkey's attitude is crucial and the readmission agreement with the EU has to be concluded. The EPP Group praises its management in dealing with the problem of Syrian refugees.
  • There has been significant improvement of controls in land and sea borders thanks to better coordination and equipment of the Greek authorities. The role of FRONTEX has to be emphasised.

M. Alvargonzales

Deepening our relationship with the East

The European Neighbourhood Policy, with its Eastern and Southern dimensions, has always been at the heart of the EPP Group. We recognise the importance of Article 8 of the TEU, and the responsibility of the EU to establish an area of prosperity and good neighbourliness, founded on the values of the Union and characterised by close and peaceful relations based on cooperation. We believe that tightening relations with our Eastern neighbours with tailor-made Association Agreements including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, as well as a visa liberalisation process, is the right and comprehensive approach. For this reason, we have always been looking forward to the Eastern Partnership project to deliver on tangible results of democratisation and modernisation in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and the Ukraine, especially ahead of the Vilnius Summit.

However, recent political developments which we are witnessing in the Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, pose a serious question on where our partners are heading and what are their real geopolitical choices. The democratic achievements of the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine, the Rose Revolution in Georgia, and the political shift in Moldova of 2009, with their clear pro-European backgrounds, have been visibly fading away in a common pattern and are being unraveled under internal and external pressures, jeopardising the ambition of these countries to move towards closer integration with Europe.

The EPP Group is deeply concerned over the deteriorating political situation prevailing in Georgia and marked by the deepening polarisation between the Georgian Dream coalition of Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili and the United National Movement of President Mikheil Sakaashvili with politically-motivated prosecutions, interrogations and detentions of former government officials and civil servants, blackmailing Members of the parliamentary minority to change their political affiliation, inflammatory rhetoric, as well as pressure on the judiciary, elected local self-governments and independent media. We stress that cohabitation and cooperation between the political majority and minority is a democratic standard that cannot be undermined and that the rights of any parliamentary minority must be respected.

We also express our deep concern for the escalation of human rights violations and the misuse of the judiciary for political purposes in the Ukraine. The decision by the Ukrainian authorities to suspend the parliamentary immunity of Serhiy Vlasenko MP, a lawyer who has been actively defending the former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, is another clear sign that the ruling Party of President Viktor Yanukovych is unlikely to deliver on commitments made during the EU-Ukraine Summit of 25 February.

The EPP Group is also closely watching the situation in Moldova, where the pro-European government fell after losing a confidence vote, which poses a real threat to the political future of the country. We remain convinced that all political forces should engage in an open dialogue and form a new government as soon as possible which will be committed to pursuing the strategic course towards the European Union and building deep and sustainable democracy.

The right choice for Belarus is Europe. For this reason, the EU should lead a two-pronged policy of sanctioning the Lukashenka regime, while remaining open and generous towards Belarusian society by providing a visa-free regime and programmes supporting its better knowledge of the Union.

Examples from the Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova are interlinked by the clearly visible common trend of questioning the very achievements of democratic changes which started a few years ago in those countries. What was until recently a good example of pursuing the pro-European political path, and a hope for the EU in the Eastern Partnership region, has now become a source of serious concerns.

Therefore, the EPP Group believes that the EU has to take steps and urgently address the deteriorating situations in the Ukraine, Georgia and the political instability in Moldova and send a clear signal to our Eastern Partnership Partners that while we remain committed to the letter of Article 8 of the TEU and acknowledge European aspirations and the European choice of some of those countries, we will not compromise on our common values.

At the same time, our partners have to be reminded that by signing the Partnership and Cooperation Agreements with the EU, and European Neighbourhood Policy Action Plans, they have actually committed to and must deliver on shared values of democracy, the rule of law, impartial judiciary and respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as good governance, sustainable development and market economy.

S. Kosinska


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