17 June, 2003
VIENNA 17/6/2003 (ANA - D. Dimitrakoudis)
Prime Minister and European Council President Costas Simitis discussed next week's European Union summit in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, with Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel on Saturday, as part of his ''tour of European capitals'' in preparation for the summit, and expressed optimism over its success.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Simitis, at the end of their two-hour talks, Schuessel congratulated the prime minister repeatedly for the effective work and the excellent handling of the Greek EU presidency, a ''very difficult'' presidency, in view of economic problems faced by all of Europe, international problems, the war in Iraq, relations with the United States and the Middle East issue.
Making an account of his tour of European capitals (24 in all following the accession of 10 new member-states), Simitis said that during his contacts he ascertained a will for cooperation and possibilities for a better solution to problems.
On the question of the European draft constitution, the prime minister said there are certain points which must be clarified and added that the new members must cooperate to understand the EU and that they will be able to produce very positive results through cooperation.
Simitis further said that, according to his experience from these visits, everything cannot be accomplished now and must take place gradually so that what is probably not feasible at the moment can be achieved later.
He said that in Thessaloniki the heads of government, who will be briefed on the European draft constitution by Constitutional Assembly President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, will have to decide on the Intergovernmental Conference where the discussion on European constitution issues will have a frame-work, a base and a direction aimed at the completion of its work before the next Euro-elections on June 15, 2004.
Regarding the second main issue to be discussed at the Thessaloniki summit, that of illegal immigration, the European Council president said decisions must be taken on speedy, specific and effective action, since it is a worsening problem.
He added that apart from the combatting of the phenomenon and its settlement, a reply must be given to the question of the immigrants' accession to society, where the social dimension will play a great role.
Replying to a question on what the countries of southeastern Europe can expect from the Thessaloniki summit, Simitis said that an improvement in current cooperation will be sought and more financial resources and more common programs will be provided, while the prospect of accession after the fulfillment of necessary preconditions will be given to the countries of the western Balkans.
Schuessel also hailed the Greek presidency's initiative to have the countries of the western Balkans participate in the Thessaloniki summit.
Source: Athens News Agency