25 January, 2007
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday stated that Athens supported the future EU and NATO prospects of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) - but only if Greece's tiny northern neighbor came to terms "with the basic rules of the game" in its dispute with Greece over the name 'Macedonia'.
Karamanlis was speaking during a joint press conference with Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) President Rene van der Linden after their meeting in Strasbourg, where he had just delivered an address to the COE parliamentary assembly.
Regarding the 'name issue', Karamanlis said that ongoing negotiations on the dispute were still in progress but stressed that Greece had made its positions crystal clear and was now waiting for FYROM to do the same, pointing out that this had not yet occurred.
Greece objects to FYROM's use of the name 'Macedonia' on the grounds that it is a geographical term that is shared by a northern Greek province having a common border with FYROM and may give grounds for future expansionist designs against Greece.
The Greek premier also referred to developments in Kosovo, noting that the proposals of special UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari were awaited with great anticipation.
Karamanlis stressed that the main goal was to ensure stability in the region, outlining Greece's position that no solution could be imposed that was not mutually acceptable to both sides involved, Serbia and Kosovo.
He said that such a solution must respect human rights and the rights of the minorities of both sides, while guaranteeing the European prospects of the wider region.
The prime minister also took questions from PACE deputies regarding the planned EU Constitutional Treaty and how he intended to support efforts by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to proceed to a "good Constitution", stressing that it was urgent to revive efforts to make EU institutions more manageable.
"We are all aware of the situation that has existed after the two negative referendums for the Constitutional Treaty. We strenuously support that the times has come to rekindle our efforts and we must be more constructive and contribute to efforts by Chancellor Merkel to do this. It is a necessity. It is self-evident that we respect different points of view, but a union of '27' cannot function well and gaze on the future with the rules for a Europe of '6'. It is therefore of the utmost urgency to move on," Karamanlis said.
Asked if he agreed with recent statements by Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, who said that the EU should drop its unanimity rule and replace it with a qualified majority rule so as to evolve into a 'United States of Europe', Karamanlis said that Athens was "close to that view".
"We are a large family. We share the basic targets but this does not mean that we will all agree on an issue. There are differing views, even about the future of Europe," he noted.
According to Karamanlis, Athens sees the process toward political integration as "positive, favorable and we support it". Though the EU was by definition a forum for consensus and compromise, this formula could not continue to be successful in coming years, he added.
"Regarding majority, there are great sensitivities, it is a complex matter that we are handling with great caution. But we all understand that a family of '27' or more in coming years cannot function only with full consensus.
Fielding a question on illegal immigration and whether Greece would be willing to host a CoE observatory for improving the way this was handled, the Greek premier answered simply "yes".
"Greece, which is at the extreme southeastern limit of the EU, faces the awesome challenge of the huge waves of migration. It is natural that the government gives this issue priority and great importance. We actively participate in all relevant organs and believe there is improvement of cooperation on a European-wide level," he added.
Answering a question by Greek deputy Dinos Vrettos on the possibility of vetoing Turkey's EU progress, Karamanlis repeated that Athens supported full accession for Turkey, provided that it fully conformed with EU terms and criteria.
"I believe we have a broad cross-party position in Greece, at least between the two main parties, regarding our strategy where Turkey is concerned. We believe, of course, that it has not fulfilled the obligations and commitments that it undertook in its contract with Europe. We consider that the decision of the European Council last December was positive, in the sense that mit made it absolutely clear to Turkey that the EU is not satisfied with its progress, with respect to promoting the reforms and respecting the conditions that it has itself accepted," Karamanlis noted.
"We believe in a policy that offers Turkey the incentives required for growth, reform, to become a European country," he added.
Asked to comment on Greece's insistence on the term 'Moslem' rather than 'Turkish' for the minority group in Thrace, Karamanlis replied that Greece was a democratic society that fully respected all human rights and minority rights, as well as abiding by the rule of law and international treaties - such as the Treaty of Lausanne that defined the specific minority as 'Moslem'.
Source: Athens News Agency