Greece assumes EU presidency

Jan. 8, 2014 at 4:34 PM
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ATHENS, Greece, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- With Greece taking its turn as rotating president nation of the European Union, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras downplayed economic and political concerns.

The union's presidency rotates through member states every six months. Samaras and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso spoke at the official ceremony for Greece's assumption of power and both sought to tamp down fears of domestic politics interfering with the delicate agreement between the EU and Greece to help bail out the debt-riddled nation's economy, reported Wednesday.

"Greece, after great sacrifices, is leaving the crisis behind it," Samaras said.

Samaras' government has imposed harsh and deeply unpopular austerity plans -- a requirement from more financially stable EU member states, particularly Germany -- in order to get the financial assistance needed to avert a total collapse of the Greek economy.

But cuts to public pensions and persistently high unemployment has left many average Greek workers furious, and with the electorate in an increasingly anti-European mood Barroso acknowledged there will be political battles still to fight.

"This is not the time to slow down the pace of reforms," Barroso said. "My point is very clear: Programs work, so we should not waste the efforts so far."

Fears that widespread demonstrations would disrupt Wednesday's ceremony at the Athens Concert Hall were unfounded. Only a small protest was noted at Athens University.

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