23 April, 2003
HELSINKI 23/04/2003 (ANA - V. Patouhas)
Immigration policy, relations between the European Union and the United States and ongoing efforts to reform EU institutions and draft a new constitutional treaty occupied talks on Tuesday between Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Finland's political leadership in Helsinki.
Finland is the first stop in Simitis' tour of Scandinavian countries in his capacity as head of the rotating EU presidency, currently held by Greece. The Greek premier plans to tour a number of European capitals before June in order to pave the way for the Greek EU presidency's final summit in Thessaloniki, where EU leaders hope to have reached some consensus on the thorny issue of institutional reforms that are necessary for the enlarged Community to function effectively.
Finland is among the member-states who view the draft constitutional treaty prepared by the Convention for the Future of Europe and its leader Valery Giscard d'Estaing with a degree of skepticism. It is also among the smaller EU member-states that want the European Commission and EU institutional bodies to be strengthened as a counterweight to the EU presidency.
During his visit to the country, Simitis held talks with Finnish President Tarja Halonen and newly elected Finnish Prime Minister Anneli Jaatteenmaki, during which the Finnish side raised the issue of its request for an EU food control agency based in Helsinki.
Also vying for the specific agency is Italy, which has proposed that it be based in Parma.
Simitis said the issue would be resolved at the Thessaloniki summit based on the proposals submitted by the two member-states.
The Greek premier's next stop after Helsinki is Stockholm, where he is due to arrive on Tuesday afternoon for talks with Swedish Premier Goran Persson.
Next on his itinerary is a visit to Copenhagen on Wednesday, while he is due back in Athens on the same day.
During a press conference held after his talks with Finnish officials on Tuesday, meanwhile, Simitis underlined that the general elections in Greece would take place at the end of the government's term in the spring of 2004.
Source: Athens News Agency