12 July, 2008
On Sunday morning, while Brest hosts the International Festival of the Sea, the 27 EU ministers for European affairs and the European Commissioner for maritime affairs Joe Borg will discuss European maritime policy, which is also expected to be one of the fundamental areas of action for the Mediterranean Union.
Greece hopes to play a leading role in this area, beginning with the ministerial meeting organised in Rhodes last year.
"The French are now taking the baton and making maritime policy a priority of their [EU] presidency and a basic axis for action by the Mediterranean Union," Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis said.
He said the talks would cover all aspects of maritime policy, including the environment, transport, shipping, illegal immigration, tourism and managing the EU's external borders. On the last issue, he also reminded Greece's proposal for a European coast guard, adding that there was close cooperation with the French side for setting up such a body with the collaboration at first of the Mediterranean countries.
Other areas emphasised by Greece are the creation of maritime avenues to promote the link between Greece's ports and those of the eastern Mediterranean.
Combined with new road links that have been constructed or are under construction in Greece, this is expected to make Greece a combined transport hub and a commercial, investment and tourist portal for SE Europe.
During a meeting with a French official on Friday night, meanwhile, Valinakis was due to discuss issues related to the European prospects of the Balkan countries, among them Turkey and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). The Greek minister said that both countries had "serious shortcomings" in terms of their behaviour in external relations and in promoting good neighbour relations, which were considered very important by European countries.
Source: Athens News Agency