The Greek Press Today
© Copyright Embassy of Greece 1996-2005. All Rights Reserved.
05 May, 2006
The heads of state and government of the South East Europe Cooperation Process (SEECP) member countries commenced their summit meeting Thursday morning in Thessaloniki, with an opening address by Greek prime minister Costas Karamanlis who outlined the progress and significant successes achieved during Greece's year-long chairmanship of the group, which was coming to a close.
Addressing the summit, Karamanlis stressed that the Inter-Balkan cooperation has played an important role in achieving a new environment, in contrast with the past in which the atmosphere was "poisoned" by suspicion, lack of trust, and even wars.
He said that during the Greek chairmanship-in-office (CiO), tangible steps forward and significant successes were achieved.
Greece, he said, continued to fully back the European prospect of the region's countries, and was working consistently in that direction. He warned, however, that "The European principles and values must be respected, and all the criteria and prerequisites that have been put forward by the EU must be fully implemented".
Karamanlis noted that there were two SEECP countries currently in the process of EU accession (Romania and Bulgaria), three candidate countries (Turkey, Croatia and FYROM), one country that has signed a stability and association agreement with the EU, while two others were currently in the process of negotiations for concluding such an agreement.
Regional cooperation and good neighborhood relations are considered by the EU as a prerequisite for accession, he continued.
Karamanlis further said that a uniform free trade agreement among the SEECP countries would give new impetus to trade and attract new investments, referring to a proposal adopted Wednesday at the SEECP foreign ministers' conference in Thessaloniki, which was submitted by Greek foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis. He also made note of the European road axes and the rail links, as well as cooperation in the energy sector.
The Greek premier welcomed the imminent signing, later in the day -- by the SEECP transport ministers -- of an agreement for the creation of an efficient rail network in SE Europe, as this entailed modernization of the railways, reduction of travel time, and improvement of the quality of the region's rail services.
Regarding Kosovo, Karamanlis stressed that "the negotiations process for the future status of Kosovo must contribute to the stability and security in SE Europe".
"Our countries, as neighbors, are those that will be mainly affected by the solution reached. The involvement of the countries of the region in the efforts for a Kosovo solution contributes both to the success of the negotiations process and to stability in the region," the premier continued.
"The partners in the South East Europe Cooperation Process understand that in order to ensure stability and security in the region, it is important that we achieve a solution that is mutually acceptable to all sides involved on the future of a multi-ethnic and multicultural Kosovo. Whatever solution is reached must be the result of negotiations, and reached through peaceful means, ruling out all forms of violence, with respect for the inviolability of the borders, and which will contribute to the stability and security in the region," he added.
"It is my conviction that whatever arrangement (is decided) should be fully in line with the European criteria and values that we all share," Karamanlis said.
Turning to other issues, Karamanlis said that the issue of organized crime and corruption "remains a challenge for democracy and development". Whether involving trafficking of all forms, or money laundering, or other illegal activities, organized crime can be effectively dealt with only if the national efforts were supplemented by a collective regional action. "Inter-Balkan cooperation has played, and must continue to play, an important role in uprooting corruption practices in our region," the premier added.
Karamanlis stressed the need for creating efficient structures and bodies for Inter-Balkan cooperation, noting that any form of an institutional background was lacking. He disagreed with the view that the creation of institutions could potentially destroy the purely political nature of the Inter-Balkan cooperation, stressing that, on the contrary, the establishment of such structures would render the cooperation more credible in the eyes of the international community and the EU.
The Greek premier said that an action plan has been distributed pertaining to the institutional strengthening of the SE Europe cooperation process, and expressed satisfaction with the progress achieved in January regarding the appointment of an SEECP official as a liaison with the EU. "We are advancing this idea even further in our Declaration today, since the appointment of such a personality, by joint decision, would be of exceptional importance."
Karamanlis also referred to the implementation of the Thessaloniki Agenda, noting that the text prepared by the Greek chairmanship-in-office would be conveyed to the EU representative.
The Greek prime minister was slated to meet separately Thursday with Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Romanian prime minister Calin Popescu-Tariceanu, and other SEECP leaders, on the sidelines of the summit.
On Wednesday night, Karamanlis hosted a banquet in honor of the visiting heads of state and government while, earlier in the day, he had separate talks with FYROM president Branko Crvenkovski, Chairman of the tripartite Presidency of the national (central) government of Bosnia and Herzegovina Sulejman Tihic, and Albanian prime minister Sali Berisha.
Greece supports the European prospects of all southeast European countries and this is a steadfast position, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis pointed out on Thursday during a press conference with the prime ministers of Croatia and Romania, Ivo Sanader and Calin Popescu Tariceanu respectively, after the South East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) summit meeting in Thessaloniki.
The prime minister did not comment on the government crisis in Serbia that erupted after an EU decision to suspend negotiations with the country on customs union, saying that he does not comment on domestic developments in a neighboring and friendly country.
Karamanlis stressed that Greece’s position is firm, pointing out that “definitely all countries must meet the obligations they have undertaken but the vision and European prospect should stay alive”.
He also reiterated Greece’s support to the EU accession of Bulgaria and Romania on Jan.1, 2007 and underlined that Greece supports the European prospects of all southeast European countries, adding that this is a principle Athens supports firmly.
On the issue of Kosovo, Karamanlis stated that the solution to the problem should be mutually acceptable to all interested parties and the product of a peaceful settlement ruling out any form of violence. It should respect the inviolability of the borders and promote regional stability and security. In addition, it should ensure that Kosovo will remain multiethnic and multicultural and, in all cases, it should be a solution in compliance with the European principles and criteria, the prime minister said.
Karamanlis also welcomed the unanimous approval of Moldova’s request to be upgraded from an observer to a full SEECP member.
The issue of Iran's nuclear program is one of global concern, stated Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday in Thessaloniki, adding that everybody in the world agrees on the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons and on the fact that nuclear technology should not be used for anything other than peaceful purposes.
The prime minister added that there is intense debate within the UN Security Council, in which Greece participates (as a non permanent member), and that Greek positions were in line with those of its European partners. At the same time, he stressed that the issue should be solved via diplomacy.
Source: Athens News Agency