A PERIOD of deep transition and multiple challenges: this is how Italy describes the conditions under which it took on its 11th presidency of the European Union from Greece on July 1. During the following six months the country will focus mostly on pursuing a job-friendly Europe and economic growth; improving the EU as an area of democracy, rights and freedoms; and the re-assessment of the global role of the EU in the international realm, with particular regard to ongoing international crises.

“These are challenging targets, as this is also a transitional period: we recently held elections to the European Parliament, while the creation of the new EU Commission is still under way,” Roberto Martini, the Italian ambassador to Slovakia, told The Slovak Spectator in a recent interview.

In addition to these areas, the EU is still grappling with the economic and financial crisis, though Martini admits that there are some signs of recovery, as well as serious troubles on the international scene, like the conflicts in Ukraine, Iraq and Syria.

Among the most pressing issues is youth joblessness. Currently, about 26 million people across the EU are unemployed, most of whom are graduates without work experience, as reported by the SITA newswire. In this regard, Italy will try to help them via supporting effective implementation of the Youth Guarantee project, as well as investments in education, trainings and labour force mobility, the TASR newswire wrote.

The new Italian government has already put together a plan called ‘decreto occupazione’, or employment decree, focusing on the labour market, Martini told The Slovak Spectator. He stressed that at the European level, the different positions should be discussed at numerous forums, like the next EuroFin meeting.

During the following six months, Italy also wants to support a discussion over the creation of common asylum and immigration policy. In this regard, the ambassador pointed to the increasing number of illegal immigrants who try to enter the EU via Italy’s borders. It is not only a problem of southern Europe, but the whole union, Martini stressed, as reported by SITA.

During the July 8 press conference, Dušan Chrenek, head of the Representation of the EC in Slovakia, appreciated the work of Greece during its presidency, saying it is symbolic that the EU started recovering from the crisis during this time, since the country had been stricken the most and European problems were the most visible there.

“Greece has shown during its presidency its European commitment and leadership, has answered the challenges at home, but has also constructively contributed to the common European agenda,” Chrenek said, as quoted by TASR. He added that the country had to adopt tough reforms, and that nobody currently talks about Greece leaving the eurozone anymore.