|Wednesday, 27 January 2021|
Athens News Agency: News in English, 05-11-02
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Greece ratifies EU entry for Bulgaria, Romania; PM meets Basescu and ParvanovThe Greek Parliament on Wednesday ratified the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the European Union during a special session attended by the heads of state of both countries, Romanian President Traian Basescu and Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov.
The ratification of the accession treaties was backed by the MPs of all parties, except for the staunchly anti-European Communist Party of Greece (KKE). The Greek Parliament is thus among the first of the EU's national parliaments to ratify the treaties, under which Romania and Bulgaria will formally become EU member-states on January 1, 2007.
In an address to Parliament after the vote, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis stressed that Greece supports the European prospects of all countries in the Balkans and congratulated Romania and Bulgaria on their progress in adopted and introducing Community laws and practices, stressing that Greece will support them in this course.
Afterwards, Karamanlis held talks with Parvanov and Basescu at the prime minister's residence during the 4th summit of tri-partite cooperation between the three countries.
Earlier on Wednesday, prior to the vote in Parliament, Basescu and Parvanov met Greek Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki, who underlined that Greece was glad to be the among the first countries to ratify the accession of Bulgaria and Romania into the EU and stressed that ties between Greece, Bulgaria and Romania had historically been very close.
Basescu thanked her for the support Greece has given to Romania's entry into the EU, while Parvanov stressed that Greece's support was very important and showed its faith in Bulgaria.
PM's address in Parliament
The Greek premier stressed the need to proceed carefully in resolving problems in south-eastern Europe, particularly in Kosovo:
"The solution that is given must arise from negotiations that have real substance, with the full participation of all, and must not be a product that is imposed. It must take into account all the decisions of the UN Security Council, especially UNSCR 1244 of 1999, it must be compatible with the principles and values of the EU and it must boost stability and peace in our sensitive region," Karamanlis said.
Karamanlis also expressed hope that the rest of Greece's neighbours in the Balkans would progress toward European entry but stressed that this required and was conditional on their full respect of the rules, criteria and preconditions of the Community, its values and principles, building up good neighbourly relations and cooperation and resolving disputes and outstanding differences from the past with "understanding, good faith and the promotion of mutually-acceptable solutions".
"It must be made clear to candidate-countries but also potential candidate-countries that their course toward Europe depends primarily on themselves. It depends on the speed with which they adopt the necessary reforms at home. It depends on the determination with which they participate in initiatives to boost regional cooperation, stability, the establishment of good neighbourly relations with all the neighbouring countries," he underlined.
Party leaders on ratification of accession treaties
Parliament was also addressed by main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou, who said that the ratification of the accession treaties of Romania and Bulgaria was a "historic moment for the Greek Parliament".
"As Greece in the past, so Bulgaria and Romania today confirm that the Balkans and their people can proceed down a European road and build through changes and reforms a peaceful and democratic future," Papandreou said, noting that this was a message of hope for the western Balkan countries that hoped for EU entry.
KKE General Secretary Aleka Papariga, on her part, said her party had voted against the accession of neighbouring Bulgaria and Romania for the same reasons that it had voted against Greece's entry into the EU nearly 30 years earlier.
She stressed, however, that KKE was a fervent supporter of cooperation between Balkan countries and their peoples and in favour of economic, cultural and trade cooperation with Romania and Bulgaria that was for the benefit of their peoples.
Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology party (Synaspismos) leader Alekos Alavanos supported the entry of both countries in the EU but asked their governments to take measures to increase levels of employment and salaries to even out disparities between the workforces in Greece and in their countries.
4th Tri-partite Cooperation Summit
In his meeting with the Bulgarian and Romanian heads of state later in the day, Karamanlis stressed the need to coordinate and further enhance cooperation between the three countries, stressing that they had interests in common.
He also pointed out that the European prospects of the western Balkans could be a vehicle for resolving outstanding problems between the countries in the region.
Concerning Kosovo, the premier reiterated the need for careful and unrushed decisions that would lead to a stable and viable outcome and particularly stressed the need to fully respect human and minority rights and implement the criteria already set forth.
Karamanlis also called for further strengthening the South East European Cooperation Process (SEECP), noting that this was the only collective forum that exists for the Balkans.
Parvanov agreed on the need to enhance tri-partite cooperation and that the European prospects of Balkan countries was the best solution to the region's problems, while pledging that Bulgaria will respond positively and fulfil the criteria set by the European Commission, in spite of its present difficulties.
He underlined the need to pay more attention to the views of people living in the region, both in Kosovo and in other areas where there were problems, while stressing that any solution in Kosovo must be based on the decisions of the EU and the United Nations and enhance multiculturalism in the area.
The Bulgarian president called for cooperation in dealing with organised crime and the problems of the energy sector, and said that Bulgaria will assist with a plan presented to him by Karamanlis for coordinating the efforts of the three countries in response to potential natural disasters.
Basescu pledged to return Greece's support for Romania's entry into the EU and NATO, stressing the fact that Greece was the first among the 25 EU member-states to ratify Romania's EU accession.
"We hope that other countries will soon follow suit," he added.
The Romanian president said that Athens, Sofia and Bucharest should join into a 'single voice' on the issue of Kosovo and that a solution for Kosovo should meet international standards and the decisions of the EU and UN.
He also noted Romania's agreement concerning closer cooperation in dealing with natural disasters.
 PASOK walks out of debate on 'primary shareholder' billMain opposition PASOK on Wednesday walked out of the debate on the revised "primary shareholder" in Parliament, in protest over the government's decision to push the bill through using emergency procedures.
On Tuesday, PASOK MPs had walked out of the discussion of the revised bill in a Parliamentary Committee for the same reasons.
The decision was announced by PASOK leader George Papandreou, who said the use of the truncated procedures used for emergency legislation constituted "a gross distortion and trivialisation of the parliamentary process".
Papandreou was also scathing about the draft bill itself, saying it amounted to "absolute zero" and "buried the previous law".
At the same time, he admitted that the clause in the Greek Constitution regarding so-called 'primary' shareholders in the media - though voted on under specific circumstances and with the best intentions - had to be re-examined in light of the new conditions.
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