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Letter: A Greek contribution to Europe

Sir: Your fears ('Greece's presidency tests the Twelve', 5 January) for the effects on the European Union of the six-month Greek Council presidency are unjustified. Apart from the issue of Macedonia, the Greek government is more in the mainstream of European thinking than is the UK government.

In any case, the presidency as such is overrated. It is merely the chairmanship of one of the five EU institutions. It has little scope for autonomous action and, except in foreign-policy matters, it has no executive role. It is in office a mere six months.

Governments occupying the position are wont to describe it - as the press does all too frequently - as 'the presidency of the European Union'. However, no such position exists, as each of the institutions has its own president.

Arguably, the president of the European Commission, with a longer term of office in an executive position, and with the full- time European Civil Service behind him, has much more influence in the long run. He (or in future a she?) is often in a far better position to speak for the Union as a whole than is a minister from one of its member states. Any future institutional reform should recognise this fact.

Yours sincerely,


Antwerp, Belgium

6 January