European Council President Spokesperson
Let me start by thanking Prime Minister Bettel for the welcome I have received here in Luxembourg today.
The rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union is an important and a demanding task. It takes hard work, a lot of patience and great negotiating skills. But Luxembourg is both well-prepared and, above all, very experienced. Not many EU member states can boast of 12 Council presidencies!
At the same time responsibility is also a privilege. It is an opportunity to help lead the European agenda for 6 months. This is what our meeting today has been about.
Your presidency comes at a time when Europe faces a number of significant challenges. We will need your experience in handling many of the sensitive files that need to be addressed in the coming months. In this, the presidency has my full support and I know that we will work very closely together.
There are a number of areas where we will need to deliver. One prime example is the ongoing migration crisis in the Mediterranean. As we speak, the presidency is working on the follow-up to the decisions taken at the June European Council on relocation and resettlement of 60,000 asylum seekers. We are working to support front-line countries on the reception and registration of irregular arrivals. We will be meeting with our African partners in Malta in November to discuss cooperation with the countries of transit and origin. I will of course ensure that the Luxemburg presidency is closely involved in the preparations of upcoming summits. Just as I will support the presidency in taking forward legislative work.
How we handle the challenge of migration, will also of course impact on the Schengen area of passport-free travel - a remarkable success story born during a previous Luxembourg presidency.
Greece remains of course our most immediate challenge. There are only three days left to the next summit. Let me use this occasion to again underline that we stand ready to do whatever necessary to ensure the financial stability of the euro area. We expect Greece to put forward by the end of today proposals that are both comprehensive and specific. It will then be for the Institutions and the Euro Group to make the first assessment.
I just spoke with the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. I hope that today we will receive concrete and realistic proposals of reforms from Athens. If this happens, we will also need a parallel proposal from the creditors. The realistic proposal from Greece will have to be matched by an equally realistic proposal on debt sustainability from the creditors. Only then will we have a win-win situation. Otherwise, we will continue the lethargic dance we have been dancing for the past five months.
As a final comment I want to stress that offering help to Greece, especially in the context of debt, cannot be a justification of the wrong economic philosophy, which is the main source of the crisis. And so, I believe that that Europe's assistance for Greece should be accompanied by an old Roman saying "Magnum vectigal est parsimonia".
Prime Minister Bettel and Luxembourg can count on my full support for your presidency. Your good ideas, organisation and energy have never been more needed or appreciated than now. All the best Xavier, and good luck.