07 September, 2005
Italian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini on Tuesday stressed that it would be a mistake for the European Union to tack on additional conditions for beginning accession talks with EU hopeful Turkey, although he unequivocally called on Ankara to recognize the Republic of Cyprus.
President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis had earlier received the visiting Italian deputy premier and foreign minister during separate meetings.
Fini’s comments came after a meeting with his counterpart, Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis, as talks expectedly focused on last week’s “counter-statement” – unveiled by the British EU presidency – to offset Ankara’s declaration in late July. The Turkish government stated that it will not recognize EU member-state Cyprus until a solution to the Cyprus problem is attained.
Turkey’s diplomatic gambit was attached to an extension of a customs union protocol signed by the Ankara government to extend the pact with the EU’s 10 new members, a group that includes Cyprus.
“The European Council last December ascertained that Turkey fulfilled all of the conditions set out for it,” Fini said, adding: “Turkey must at the same time bear in mind that there are issues that it cannot continuously leave for the future.”
Moreover, the Italian official praised Athens for what he called "its wise, intelligent, correct and very courageous" stance vis-a-vis Turkey's accession negotiations, while at the same time expressing a hope that such accession talks begin as scheduled on Oct. 3.
"Ankara must also solve the major issues pending, such as recognition of the Republic of Cyprus, during the lengthy period that they (negotiations) will take," Fini nevertheless emphasized.
On his part, Molyviatis expressed Athens' satisfaction with Tuesday's talks and confirmed the excellent state of relations between Greece and Italy, both on the bilateral level and within various international fora.
The Greek FM noted that EU expansion, the Union's fiscal prospects as well as EU-Turkey relations were among the items on the agenda of talks, whereas both sides held converging views on a variety of issues.
The situation in the Middle East and southeast Europe, in general, was also discussed, Molyviatis said, before stressing that joint efforts are necessary to ensure peace, democracy and stability in the wider region.
"The catalyst for achieving all these goals is none other than the European prospect of all our neighbors," the Greek FM added.
Regarding the situation in the Balkans, Fini initially referred to a "cloudy" situation in the region, before however, citing what he termed "significant steps" and initiatives by Rome and Athens towards rapprochement between Balkan countries and Europe.
"If we want to give an European prospect to these countries we must first provide them with a European vision, as the path (towards Europe) will be long and difficult, but it can only be towards one direction: Europe," he stressed.
Moreover, the deputy Italian premier said Greek-Italian relations were excellent, while focusing especially on robust trade and economic ties. He added that Rome's interest in upgrading bilateral relations also stems from the outstanding international image conveyed by Athens and the entire country during the successful hosting of the 2004 Olympic Games.
The Italian minister said that while Olympic expenditures were surely high, the medium- and long-term investment entailed was quite momentous.
In terms of combating illegal immigration, Fini said both Italy and Greece are "Europeans on the borders", a fact that forces Athens and Rome to turn the EU's attention to the Mediterranean.
Furthermore, he again praised Greek-Italian cooperation in the fight to curb illegal immigration.
"...if we want to deal with terrorism, we must absolutely avoid a clash between religions and civilizations," he noted.
Source: Athens News Agency