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Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-12-07

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Papandreou meets with organisation for disabled
  • [02] Athens to wait for official proposal from Turkey

  • [01] Papandreou meets with organisation for disabled

    Main opposition PASOK party President George Papandreou on Thursday met with with the presiding board of the National Confederation of Persons with Disabilities (ESAEA) and representatives of its member-federations.

    Papandreou, accompanied by party secretary Nikos Athanassakis, attended a luncheon with the representatives of disabled people in Zappeion Building in Athens.

    The PASOK leader stressed that his party‚s objective is to allow persons with disabilities enjoy equal access to education, health, and work.

    The active participation of persons with disabilities is a fundamental democratic right stressed the PASOK leader and criticized the government for refusing to grant them a heating subsidy.

    ESAEA President Yiannis Vardakastanis stressed that public policy for people with disabilities must change, adding that they experience discrimination and exclusion in every aspect of their life.

    In later statements after the meeting, Papandreou commented on an announcement made by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis about a plan to allow Greeks abroad to vote.

    He noted that PASOK had submitted a proposal for changing the election system to ensure greater transparency and a renewal of political life.

    At the same time, he criticised the government and the prime minister of making fragmentary, opportunist announcements of a clearly pre-electoral nature, saying he expected a more serious and responsible stance on issues such as changing the Constitution and election law.

    [02] Athens to wait for official proposal from Turkey

    Greece will wait until there is an official proposal from Turkey regarding implementation of the Customs Union protocol before it adopts a position, Greek foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos stressed on Thursday.

    "Up until now there is nothing specific, official or final on which any sort of position can be taken. In the last 48 hours we have been having a stream of potential proposals or ideas that might be submitted. The information is unclear and there are no official positions, while there is no full text for a proposal upon which the ministry might adopt a position. When there is something clear, official and final, the ministry will adopt a position," he told reporters.

    He was responding to reports from the European Union's Finnish presidency that Turkey has offered to open one Turkish port and airport to traffic from Cyprus in a bid to avert the partial suspension of accession talks with the EU, as recommended by the European Commission. The Commission has proposed the suspension of talks on eight of the 35 accession chapters.

    The spokesman also noted that until such a final proposal was presented, it was too early to talk of a "shift" in Turkey's attitude.

    Regarding Greece's position on how many chapters in the accession talks should be frozen in response to Turkey's refusal to implement the Customs Union protocol and a Greek proposal for a clause calling for the re-evaluation of Turkey's behaviour after a specific period of time, Koumoutsakos stressed that Athens wanted the EU to send a "united, clear and stern message" message to Turkey that included a policy of sanctions.

    "When the Union adopts - if it comes to adopt - a policy of sanctions, it is clear that it would be advisable, useful and sensible to have a specific point in time when this policy is assessed. In other words for the EU to make an assessment of this policy, whether it has brought about any results and what kind of results these are, so that it can then proceed to further decisions on the outstanding issue. We have therefore asked for a re-evaluation clause, which we consider - and this as a starting point - should be within 18 months," the spokesman said.

    He also clarified that Greece did not consider the Commission's proposal to freeze eight chapters to be adequate if the EU was to send a sufficiently "strong and stern message" to Turkey and that Athens saw the Commission's proposal as a basis for negotiations. According to the spokesman, the issue of normalising relations between a candidate-country like Turkey and a member-state (Cyprus) impinged on a whole series of chapters.

    At the same time, he pointed out that the Commission's proposal was seen by a solid group of member-states as exceptionally severe for Turkey.

    Koumoutsakos noted, meanwhile, that the 18-month period proposed was not one in which Turkey's accession course could continue undisturbed:

    "There will be a 'freeze' of some chapters and, based on the recommendations of the Commission, the rest of the chapters will not close. There will be a policy of sanctions that will be implemented, so there will not be a tendency for extensions nor will the candidate-country be allowed to be judged after a time as if nothing had happened," he stressed.

    Regarding perceived attempts to link the Cyprus issue with Turkey's EU accession course, Koumoutsakos underlined that the resolution of the Cyprus issue was a process handled by the United Nations.

    At the same time, the solution would have to take into account the new state of affairs, which was that the Cyprus Republic was now a member of the EU, he added.

    Responding to other questions, meanwhile, he pointed out that Greece and other countries within the EU had stressed from the first moment that Ankara's signature of the Customs Union protocol in 2004, on the basis of which the EU had agreed to start accession talks with Turkey, would have to be honoured in practice.

    "Anyone who signs is obliged to honour his signature and proceed with implementation. In any case, if this had been omitted there would not now be a series of recommendations from the Commission for sanctions against a candidate country that had failed to meet its obligations," he added.

    On a related issue, meanwhile, the spokesman denied any problems in cooperation or in the flow of information between the Greek government and the Finnish EU presidency on this issue, saying that collaboration was "constructive and continuous".

    Opposition leaders slam government over EU-Turkey developments

    Commenting on the latest developments, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou slammed the government for failing to exploit the good position that the previous PASOK government, in which he served as foreign minister, had left the country.

    He also held Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis personally responsible, saying that the premier was "absent from the important developments in crucial foreign policy issues," while accusing the government of allow EU-Turkey relations to "slide down to the level of an Oriental bazaar, without Greece's presence".

    Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology leader Alekos Alavanos similarly noted that Turkey's implementation of the Customs Union protocol should not be a matter for bargaining:

    "I think we all know well in the EU that Turkey's obligation to implement customs union and the terms of customs union means an independent and without other connections or conditions obligation to open its ports and airports to ships and planes of the Cyprus Republic. It is an independent obligation and this is mentioned by the Commission's report. I think it is an issue that cannot be bargained over," he said.

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