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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-07-20

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

CONTENTS

  • [01] Karamanlis, Merkel focus on Euro constitution, regional issues in Athens talks
  • [02] Fire-fighting efforts against wildfires con't

  • [01] Karamanlis, Merkel focus on Euro constitution, regional issues in Athens talks

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis concluded a meeting in Athens early Friday afternoon with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with both leaders fielding questions afterwards on issues ranging from the European constitution to Kosovo, climate change and, expectedly, bilateral ties, including defence contracts.

    Regarding the former, Karamanlis congratulated the German chancellor for her efforts, which he called "decisive", at achieving a breakthrough on the European constitution issue at a recent summit in Berlin.

    In response, Merkel referred to Karamanlis as a "political friend" and praised the Greek government's "productive efforts" on the thorny constitution issue, whereas she lauded Greece's euro zone-leading economic growth, in the neighbourhood of 4 percent annually. Both leaders, in fact, repeatedly called bilateral ties excellent.

    Merkel, in Athens for a day-long visit including talks with Greek leadership, later departed with the Greek premier for a downtown Athens hotel, where she addressed an event hosted by the Greek-German chamber of commerce.

    On his part, Karamanlis emphasised that Germany is by far Greece's largest trading partner, while expressing satisfaction over the fact that the east Mediterranean country is among the top destinations for German tourists.

    "Cultural ties are particularly strong, and there are strong cultural bonds between our two peoples," Karamanlis said, while also noting the vigorous presence in Germany of expatriate Greek communities.

    Turning to the western Balkans, the German chancellor echoed Athens' standing policy of supporting the EU prospects of countries in the region, stressing that this helps the peace process throughout the region.

    Finally, in her opening comments, Merkel expressed her government's support for the current Portuguese EU presidency's focus on promoting the Union's maritime policy, citing protection of the marine environment.

    Constitution

    Regarding the draft European constitution, which has emerged as a distinct priority in German foreign policy, Merkel reminded - in answer to a press question - that the Sarkozy government has promised to back a new inter-governmental constitutional conference that will ostensibly lead to a new draft constitution or major reform initiative.

    "I do not know anything about changes," Merkel said in reference to reported comments out of Paris, before citing what she called a "courageous act" by Nicholas Sarkozy not to broach the issue during the recent French presidential election.

    Moreover, Merkel reiterated her view that the European Central Bank's (ECB) independence should be maintained and that the Union should works harder towards achieving a common economic policy to better deal with international challenges.

    "Some, us included, want more of Europe. Others are more guarded," Karamanlis noted, while adding that Athens held similar views with Berlin, as it does with Paris as well.

    Kosovo

    Regarding the issue of Kosovo, Karamanlis outlined Greece's position that more time is necessary for a mutually acceptable solution, "without any side feeling humiliated ... we must not be hasty," he emphasised.

    On her part, Merkel said no solution can be found if each side insists on maintaining its positions, while reiterating that a solution must now be found under the auspices of a contact group.

    Turkey

    Regarding the always timely issue of Turkey's European prospects - and with general elections in the country on Sunday - Karamanlis once again detailed Greece's standing position on the matter, namely, "absolute fulfilment (of criteria and conditions) means absolute (EU) membership".

    Karamanlis said criteria definitely includes respect for human rights and religious freedoms in Turkey, the latter being an indirect reference to incessant obstacles thrown up by Turkish bureaucracy and the judiciary against the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

    Asked about the elections in Turkey, Karamanlis merely said he hoped that any new government arising will proceed with rapid steps towards a European prospect, reforms and improved relations with Greece.

    Merkel declined to comment on the elections directly, stressing however, that Turkey's failure to implement the Ankara protocol is a problem.

    Defence

    In answer to questions regarding armaments, given that Germany is one of Greece's major suppliers of defence equipment, Karamanlis said provisions of a high-profile defence contract will be fulfilled after "problems" were resolved.

    In answer to a question on Greece's volition to purchase fourth-generation warplanes, and given that the Eurofighter consortium's "Typhoon" will surely be amongst the primary candidates, Karamanlis said any such procurement will be implemented in the most transparent manner. Additionally, he said Athens wants the largest participation possible for its domestic defence industry in any future deal for a new fighter plane.

    The German chancellor was scheduled to be received by Greek President Karolos Papoulias at 7 p.m. (17.00 GMT) before attending a dinner hosted in her honor at the prime minister's private Rafina area home.

    Caption: Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis (R) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a joint press conference at the Greek premier's Maximos Mansion office in Athens on Friday, July 20, 2007. ANA-MPA / ORESTIS PANAGIOTOU.

    [02] Fire-fighting efforts against wildfires con't

    The massive devastation caused by scores of wildfires continued throughout the country on Friday, with the situation in the greater Corinth area, west of Athens, improved compared to last night but a strong fire-fighting force is still in the area battling the flames. The fire in Mani, extreme southern Greece, has been placed under partial control and is continuing to burn forestland in south Mt. Taygettus.

    The fire in Chrisokelaria, Koroni district of Messinia prefecture, also in the Peloponnese, was rekindled.

    A wildfire continues to burn for a third day in a remote area in Mt. Grammos, in the prefecture of Kastoria, northwestern Greece. The firefighting effort there was hampered by the existence of several unmapped Civil War-era minefields in the region.

    Meanwhile, the fire that erupted at dawn in a farm area in Nikiti, Halkidiki prefecture was placed under control while a third fire that broke out in a forest area in Petrokerasa, Thessaloniki prefecture, on Thursday was quickly extinguished by firefighters.

    The latest wildfires reported were around a disused army camp near Malakasa, north of Athens, where fire-fighting efforts were hampered by the existence of unexploded munitions, as well as in the Mandalos shooting range in Mt. Paiko, in the prefecture of Pella, northern Greece.

    In a related development, main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou travelled by helicopter to the village of Hiliomodi in Corinth prefecture, in the northern Peloponnese, to visit the most seriously affected regions.

    Caption: Fire-fighters battle a blaze in the Diakofto district of Achaia prefecture, in western Greece, on Thursday, July 19, 2007. ANA-MPA / GIOTA KORBAKI.


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