BRUSSELS – The end of the year is always a time for taking stock. At the end of 2015, we could look back on a year when European solidarity – at the risk of sounding overly dramatic – withstood what may have been the greatest trials it has faced since the end of World War II.
European solidarity was severely tested through much of the year by the Greek crisis – the economic and social impacts of which continue to be felt in the eurozone and throughout the European Union. From the start of the year, the talks on Greece tried the patience of us all. Much time and trust were lost. Bridges were burned. Words were spoken that cannot easily be taken back. We saw Europe’s democracies being played against one another.
Collectively, Europe looked into the abyss. And it was only when we were at the brink that we were able to step back. In the end, the EU’s member states stood by Greece, commitments were made, implemented and adhered to, and a new program is now in place. European solidarity prevailed, and trust has started to recover. The key now will be delivery on reforms, and the European Commission continues to support Greece’s side with a new Structural Reform Support Service, as well as by providing technical assistance at every step of what is still a long journey.
At the same time, European solidarity continues to be tested by the refugee crisis. Earlier this year, the European Commission put forward a comprehensive migration policy and took immediate steps to manage the crisis. We tripled our presence in the Mediterranean Sea, helping to save lives. We fought back against the criminal networks of smugglers and traffickers. We showed solidarity by agreeing to relocate among our member states those people most in need of international protection.