|Sunday, 15 December 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 00-12-11
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 PM Simitis says Greece insists on specific rules in a federal Europe
NICE, 11/12/2000 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)Prime Minister Costas Simitis, speaking to reporters here on Sunday night on the course of negotiations on institutional reforms in the 15-nation European Union bloc, said Greece insists that there should be specific rules in a federal Europe on the way decisions are taken in the EU.
The discussion was still continuing Sunday night and Simitis avoided making any prediction on the time work will come to an end. However, he said that at some time, either late at Sunday night or in the early hours of Monday morning, the "15" would be in a position to announce whether or not a compromise agreement was reached.
Simitis said Greece's position is clear: it supports the European Commission's proposal anticipating that for decisions to be ratified in the EU, which will be taken with the special majority system, the majority of EU member-states should agree with the decision on condition that these states will also represent the majority of the EU's population.
He said consultations are difficult, adding that despite the fact that the "15" are in the fourth day of negotiations, for the time being the Presidency has made no proposal acceptable by all.
Simitis attributed the French EU Presidency's failure to submit a consensual proposal to its adherence to "historic factors, which are not valid today."
"This approach is arbitrary and for this reason we request the assessment of each country's special weight in procedures for taking decisions in the EU should be made on the basis of rules proposed by the European Commission," Simitis said.
He said that many other EU member-states agree with Greece's view. However, he did not name them because "consultations are continuing at the moment and it would not be appropriate for us to announce who supports what."
Simitis said the dual majority system benefits Greece, but pointed out that there might be other proposals with which Greece could agree. He further underlined the importance of decisions taken on European defense, saying that it will be built in close cooperation with NATO but, in parallel, it will have an autonomous character.
He also said the EU is not going through a crisis but it is at an extremely crucial point because, in light of its enlargement from 15 to 27 member-states, it should adjust it ways of operation to the new factors.
 FM Papandreou says French EU Presidency's proposals substantively rejected
NICE, 11/12/2000 (ANA - A. Podimata)Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou said on Sunday, referring to the ongoing European Union summit here, that proposals made by the French EU Presidency on Saturday and Sunday over crucial institutional reforms in the 15-nation bloc, based primarily on shaping a balance favoring the major powers, have substantively been rejected and a discussion would start now on a general draft agreement tabled by the Presidency on Sunday afternoon.
Speaking at a press conference and referring to the duration of the summit, Papandreou said he is not particularly optimistic, adding that negotiations "will continue at least until tomorrow (Monday) morning, without it being certain that an overall agreement on the accord will be achieved."
Papandreou also said that the accord would either be reached in its entirety or not at all and pointed out that even the issues on which an agreement has been reached are considered pending until an overall settlement will have been reached.
He reiterated that on the issue of vote evaluation at the Council, Greece insists that there should be a proposal "based primarily on principles and not figures", since the issue is not limited to vote negotiating.
Papandreou further said Greece insists on its proposal for dual majority, which takes into consideration both the population criterion and the weight of each member-state separately as an equal EU partner.
He added that most small and medium-size countries have raised this rationale and have rejected the rationale governing the Presidency's proposals.
Papandreou said the principle of dual majority responds more to the need to limit the EU's democratic deficit, adding that "the system proposed by the Presidency, one could say, facilitates the taking of decisions in the event this is desired by the big countries."
He also said that, following a proposal by Greece, the chapter in the presidency's conclusions referring to the "post-Nice" era contains reference to the EU's future enlargement with western Balkan countries and Turkey.
On Saturday Prime Minister Costas Simitis reiterated that negotiations by the European Union's leaders over crucial institutional reforms were "extremely difficult and ongoing".
The EU partners were split over proposed reforms directly aiming at the way the Union operates over the next decades in light of a projected doubling in the number of member-states. Internal reforms -on how far to extend majority voting and abandon national vetoes; how to re-weight votes among members and how to limit the size of the European Commission -- are judged as crucial for preventing decision-making impasses after EU enlargement sweeps across eastern Europe.
Simitis spoke to Greek reporters on Saturday, one day before the host country's leadership submitted fresh compromise proposals on several deadlocked issues.
The latest French EU presidency proposal calls for, among others, that Germany, Britain, Italy and France be given 30 votes; Spain 28; the Netherlands 12; Greece, Belgium and Portugal 11; Sweden and Austria nine; Denmark, Finland and Ireland seven; and finally, Luxembourg 3.
In specifying the three points that have turned the negotiations into a contentious affair, Simitis mentioned what he termed larger EU countries' efforts to force their position on weighted voting in order to prevent any dilution of their power following enlargement.
Negotiations were also hampered, he said, by the current French EU presidency's efforts to "retain" the status quo among the most populous member-states and, finally, what he called a "by necessity" front made up of the Union's nine smaller states. He added that this "front" didn't mean that unified positions by the nine smaller states existed in all cases.
Following the almost 360 hours of talks devoted to the issue of reforms over the past few months by the EU's "15", Simitis stressed on Saturday that uncertainty clearly exists at the moment over what type of Union will emerge from enlargement.
In summing up Athens' views, Simitis said the greatest problem faced at Nice is the apparent intention of the EU's most populous countries to create a "directorate", something he said judged as unacceptable by the smaller members.
Finally, the Greek premier emphasized that Greece continues to avidly support the concept of each EU member-state having the right to appoint a Commissioner, whereas the French proposal for added voting weight to the larger states vis-a-vis the smaller states is not satisfactory.
Turkey: On Sunday, French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine stated here that Turkey is not being considered in the French presidency's calculations because it has not even begun any pre-accession talks with the Union.
 Greek and FYROM defense ministers sign cooperation agreement, memorandum of understanding
SKOPJE, 11/12/2000 (ANA - M. Vichou)Visiting Greek National Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos and his counterpart from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Ljuben Paunovski on Sunday signed a memorandum of understanding and a cooperation agreement on border security issues.
The two ministers held lengthy discussions on the situation prevailing in this part of the world and the situation in southern Serbia in particular. Paunovski said both sides decided to help democratic development in Serbia.
The course of bilateral cooperation was also examined, while Paunovski said Greece's aid and support for his country is very important.
On his part, Tsohatzopoulos said Greece supports FYROM's efforts for NATO accession and convergence with the European Union.
The agreement signed by the two ministers has three parts: the exchange of information on better border control, cooperation between the two countries' National Defense Staffs and the development of cooperation between their defense industries.
"At present, the Balkan peoples are on a course of collective effort for the stabilization of democracy, the consolidation of the market economy and the building of common regional institutions for peace and stability in the region," Tsohatzopoulos said.
 ND's Karamanlis: EU not living up to citizens' expectations
Athens, 11/12/2000 (ANA)Main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis reiterated his call over the weekend for the creation of a national foreign policy council, during a tour of northern Greece.
Karamanlis made the comments in the northeastern town of Serres, one day after criticizing European Union leaders from the nearby municipality of Drama, saying that "this is not the Europe we dreamed of".
The ND president was referring to drawn-out and contentious negotiations in Nice, France by the Union's "15" over crucial institutional reforms prior to projected enlargement in the next five years.
He also referred to "narrow-minded views" by the member-states and stressed that the Union is not fulfilling its citizens' demands, saying social and not regional inequality is the major problem facing the 15-member bloc.
Away from the marathon Nice summit and focusing on Greek issues, Karamanlis noted the need for a "national dialogue" to begin regarding education and for 2004 Olympics preparations.
Speaking from Serres, the ND leader charged that the PASOK government lacks a poised foreign policy and has weakened the country's international presence with its policy of "unilateral retreats", as he said.
"The policy of appeasement has been tested and failed. Turkey constantly hardens its stance. To every Greek rollback it responds with coordinated provocations. It repeats this tactic on a permanent basis, while the (Greek) government continues a step-by-step slide towards Turkey's views," Karamanlis said, adding:
"This cannot be considered just erroneous and irresponsible experimentation; It's a dangerous choice by a company lacking in historical knowledge."
 Tsohatzopoulos comments on Greek-US relations
Athens, 11/12/2000 (ANA)National Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos on Saturday said after an address at the Defense Analysis Institute on developments in Greek-US relations, relations between Greece and the US will not be affected by any impression created by "one statement or another", commenting on recent statements by US Ambassador to Athens Nicholas Burns by which he appeared to be indicating to the country which type of aircraft to buy.
Tsohatzopoulos said Greece's relations with the US are based, on the one hand, on political and strategic characteristics and on the other, as is the case with other countries producing armaments, they are governed by the principles of transparency and clear procedures based on decisions aimed at achieving what is best for the national interest.
 Mayors of major Balkan cities focus on regional cooperation
Athens, 11/12/2000 (ANA)Mayors of the largest municipalities in the Balkans wrapped sessions of their first-ever conference in Thessaloniki on Saturday by focusing on the proposal for the creation of an international network of cities to foster solidarity and mutual support among municipal services, particularly for Balkan townships.
Thessaloniki Mayor and conference host Vassilis Papageorgopoulos initially proposed the idea, calling on his Balkan counterparts to also exploit funding through the EU's Interreg III and Phare programs, as well as other international financing sources.
Papageorgopoulos also called for the creation of an executive secretariat run by a three-member committee to be comprised by the president of the Balkan mayors' council and by the presidents of that served in the previous and upcoming terms.
He also said that the mayors decided to meet again in Thessaloniki in 2001.
Attending delegates included mayors or deputy mayors from Albania (Tirana, Korce and Gjirokaster), Bosnia (Sarajevo, Banja Luka and Tuzla), Bulgaria (Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna), Yugoslavia (Belgrade, Novi Sad and Nis), Slovenia (Krani), the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Skopje, Tetovo and Koumanovo), as well as from Turkey (Istanbul, Ankara and Bursa).
Avramopoulos: Meanwhile, on the sidelines of the sessions, Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos remained tip-lipped about his future political intentions, following heightened speculation in the local press over the past week that he'll proceed with the creation of a new national political party.
Avramopoulos, speaking after the Thessaloniki's mayor's address to the first-ever "international friendship and cooperation meeting by major cities in the Balkans", began his speech by emphasizing that the "only avenue of communication void of (political) conflicts today is among local societies."
The popular Athens mayor, who hails from the main opposition New Democracy party, also hinted that his municipality's support to Istanbul during the devastating earthquake that struck NW Turkey last year opened the way for Greek-Turkish rapprochement.
 Majority of Greeks disappointed with mainstream parties, poll shows
Athens, 11/12/2000 (ANA)An opinion poll conducted by the "Kappa Research" company for the Sunday newspaper "To Vima tis Kyriakis" shows that over 70 percent of respondents are disappointed with the two mainstream parties, ruling socialist PASOK and conservative main opposition New Democracy (ND).
The most important problem for the government is "its failure to go ahead with major structural changes", while for ND "its many internal party problems."
However, Prime Minister Costas Simitis continues to be considered more suitable for the premiership with 35.3 percent compared to 30.5 percent for ND leader Costas Karamanlis. Regarding party preferences, on the other hand, ND leads PASOK by 32.5 percent to 28.8.
Focusing on Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos' prospects of creating a new party, more than half of the respondents said there is room on the political scene for a new party but 64.4 percent believe that a party by Avramopoulos "will not produce anything new."
The most popular personalities in the country's public life continue to be President Kostis Stephanopoulos with 77.3 percent, followed by Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos and Avramopoulos.
 Prefects calls for revision in local gov't funding
Athens, 11/12/2000 (ANA)Representatives from the country's prefectures over the weekend called for the commencement of an immediate dialogue between local governments and the interior ministry over revision financing provisions directed by the former.
Greece's prefects, who met at their association's (ENAE) annual conference in the border city of Xanthi, also demanded in a resolution that central government increase development funding for the provinces and implement a law for the transfer of civil servants, among others.
 Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos meets with cardinals in Istanbul
ISTANBUL, 11/12/2000 (ANA - A. Kourkoulas)Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos on Sunday attended a religious service here at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit.
It was conducted by a group of Vatican cardinals to commemorate the canonization of Pope John the 23rd, who had served at the Catholic community in Istanbul over the 1935-1945 period.
John had introduced great reforms in the Catholic Church and had started a historic dialogue with the Orthodox Church.
The group of cardinals visiting the city to attend the celebrations visited the Phanar and was received by the Patriarch.
 Security Council to be briefed by de Soto
NICOSIA, 11/12/2000 (CNA/ANA)UN Security Council members will be briefed Monday on the positions and views of the parties involved in the Cyprus question by UN Secretary General's Special Adviser on Cyprus Alvaro de Soto, who has had contacts recently in Cyprus, Athens and Turkey.
The briefing takes place only days before the mandate of the UN peace-keeping force in Cyprus expires, at midnight on the 15 of the month, and amid increasing concerns about the future of the UN-led proximity talks, following threats by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to leave the negotiating table unless his demands for recognition of the self-styled regime in Turkish occupied Cyprus are met.
According to diplomatic sources, the UN is hopeful that Ankara will work towards averting a deadlock in the peace process by persuading Denktash not to abandon the talks, especially after Turkey's own expectations from Europe seem to have been fulfilled in the recently agreed partnership agreement.
The Security Council, chaired this month by Russia, has already sounded out the interested sides about an invitation to outline their views before the Council with regard to the renewal of UNFICYP's mandate.
The government of the Republic of Cyprus, the three guarantor powers (Greece, Turkey and the UK) and the Turkish Cypriot side are expected to either send a representative to the Council or present their positions in writing.
Denktash would be invited as "an individual", the same sources said, in that he is the representative of the Turkish Cypriot community.
On the UN-led proximity talks, which Denktash has declared a finished matter, they said "we shall expect Turkey to work in the direction of Denktash to see the process continuing."
The UN expect the talks to continue before the parliamentary election campaign gets into full swing and would like to take advantage of the electoral period to put together their thoughts on a package of ideas they hope to present the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides in the not too distant future. Parliamentary elections are set for May.
Alvaro de Soto will be back on the island for more contacts in January and is expected to press upon both the sides that the invitation to talks still stands.
In January Britain's special representative for Cyprus Sir David Hannay will also be here for meetings, as he has said.