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Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-05-04

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Greek PM officially opens SEECP summit in Thessaloniki
  • [02] Greek, Turkish PMs review bilateral relations

  • [01] Greek PM officially opens SEECP summit in Thessaloniki

    The heads of state and government of the South East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) member countries commenced their summit meeting Thursday morning in Thessaloniki, with an opening address by Greek prime minister Costas Karamanlis who outlined the progress and significant successes achieved during Greece's year-long chairmanship of the group, which was coming to a close.

    Addressing the summit, Karamanlis stressed that the cooperation among the countries in the framework of the Inter-Balkan cooperation has played an important role in achieving a new environment, in contrast with the past in which the atmosphere was "poisoned" by suspicion, lack of trust, and even wars.

    He said that during the Greek chairmanship-in-office (CiO), tangible steps forward and significant successes were achieved.

    Greece, he said, continued to fully back the European prospect of the region's countries, and was working consistently in that direction. He warned, however, that "The European principles and values must be respected, and all the criteria and prerequisites that have been put forward by the EU must be fully implemented".

    Karamanlis noted that there were two SEECP countries currently in the process of EU accession (Romania and Bulgaria), three candidate countries (Turkey, Croatia and FYROM), one country that has signed a stability and association agreement with the EU, while two others were currently in the process of negotiations for concluding such an agreement.

    Regional cooperation and good neigborhood relations are considered by the EU as a prerequisite for accession, he continued.

    Karamanlis further said that a uniform free trade agreement among the SEECP countries would give new impetus to trade and attract new investments, referring to a proposal adopted Wednesday at the SEECP foreign ministers' assembly in Thessaloniki, which was submitted by Greek foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis. He also made note of the European road axes and the rail links, as well as cooperation in the energy sector.

    The Greek premier welcomed the imminent signing, later in the day -- by the SEECP transport ministers -- of an agreement for the creation of a high-yield rail network in SE Europe, as this entailed modernisation of the railways, reduction of travel time, and improvement of the quality of the region's rail services.

    Regarding Kosovo, Karamanlis stressed that "the negotiations process for the future status of Kosovo must contribute to the stability and security in SE Europe".

    "Our countries, as neighbours, are those that will be mainly affected by the solution reached. The involvement of the countries of the region in the efforts for a Kosovo solution contributes both to the success of the negotiations process and to stability in the region," the premier continued.

    "The partners in the South East Europe Cooperation Process understand that in order to ensure stability and security in the region, it is important that we achieve a solution that is mutually acceptable to all sides involved on the future of a multi-ethnic and mutli-cultural Kosovo. Whatever solution is reached must be the result of negotiations, and reached through peaceful means, ruling out all forms of violence, with respect for the inviolablity of the borders, and which will contribute to the stability and security in the region," he added.

    "It is my conviction that whatever arrangement (is decided) should be fully in line with the European criteria and values that we all share," Karamanlis said.

    Turning to other issues, Karamanlis said that the issue of organised crime and corruption "remains a challenge for democracy and development". Whether involving trafficking of all forms, or money laundering, or other illegal activities, organised crime can be effectively dealt with only if the national efforts were supplemented by a collective regional action. "Inter-Balkan cooperation has played, and must continue to play, an important role in uprooting corruption practices in our region," the premier added.

    Karamanlis stressed the need for creating efficient structures and bodies for Inter-Balkan cooperation, noting that any form of an institutional background was lacking. He disagreed with the view that the creation of institutions could potentially destroy the purely political nature of the Inter-Balkan cooperation, stressing that, on the contrary, the establishment of such structures would render the cooperation more credible in the eyes of the international community and the EU.

    The Greek premier said that an action plan has been distributed pertaining to the institutional strengthening of the SE Europe cooperation process, and expressed satisfaction with the progress achieved in January regarding the appointment of an SEECP official as a liaison with the EU. "We are advancing this idea even further in our Declaration today, since the appointment of such a personality, by joint decision, would be of exceptional importance."

    Karamanlis also referred to the implementation of the Thessaloniki Agenda, noting that the text prepared by the Greek chairmanship-in-office would be conveyed to the EU representative.

    The Greek prime minister was slated to meet separately Thursday with Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Romanian prime minister Calin Popescu-Tariceanu, and other SEECP leaders, on the sidelines of the summit.

    On Wednesday night, Karamanlis hosted a banquet in honour of the visiting heads of state and government while, earlier in the day, he had separate talks with FYROM president Branko Crvenkovski, Chairman of the tripartite Presidency of the national (central) government of Bosnia and Herzegovina Sulejman Tihic, and Albanian prime minister Sali Berisha.

    The SEECP transport and communications ministers were due, in the early afternoon, to sign an agreement on the development of free trade, and improvement of the region's rail network

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    [02] Greek, Turkish PMs review bilateral relations

    Greek prime minister Costas Karamanlis and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday made a general review of Greek-Turkish relations, during a 50-minute meeting held on the sidelines of the South East Europe Cooperation Process (SEECP) summit in Thessaloniki, and expressed desire for further improvement of relations between the two countries.

    Emphasis was placed on the development of economic relations between the two countries, which is already considered to be growing in leaps and bounds, given that trade exchanges have exceeded the 2 billion dollar target mark, resulting in a new target of 5 billion dollars being set. The political leaderships of the two countries have been encouraging entrepreneurship and the strengthening of tade and business relations, in the framework of economic diplomacy.

    With respect to Turkey's EU prospect, which Greece backs, Karamanlis said that EU membership was dependent on the specific commitments set out by the EU. Greece's position in favour of Turkey's EU prospect is well known, but Ankara needs to proceed in fulfilling the commitments it has undertaken towards the EU, such as matters concerning religious freedoms.

    The two prime ministers also exchanged views on the Cyprus issue, with both sides expressing hope for an auspicious end.

    The Greek side once again stressed its support for the UN secretary general's efforts and the technical committees, adding that the "auspicous end" should be a very well-prepared process leading to a just and viable resolution of the Cyprus problem.

    Regarding Karamanlis' pending visit to Turkey, diplomatic sources said that the contacts between the Greek and Turkish foreign ministries would continue in order to find a mutually convenient time for the Greek premier's visit to the Turkish capital.

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