Athens provided the backdrop for the inauguration of the Greek presidency of the EU, as leaders of its government and the European Commission gave sunny, if cautious, assessments of the economy.
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.
Euronews correspondent Stamatis Giannisis reported from Athens: “In a prolonged period of severe economic crisis, the EU presidency gives the government in Athens a good chance to restore the country’s international profile. How successful it could be, will be reflected in the result of the oncoming European elections in May. A result that might determine the future of the frail Greek governing coalition.”