|Tuesday, 15 October 2019|
Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-12-22
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Greece, Bulgaria, Romania agree to step-up cooperation for Balkan stability, growth"Greece, Bulgaria and Romania have increased resonsibilities for stability and growth on the Balkan region, and we intend to shoulder these responsibilities," Greek foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis said on Saturday, following a tripartite meeting in Athens, at Greece's initiative, with her Bulgarian and Romanian counterparts Ivaylo Kalfin and Adrian Cioroianu, respectively.
The three foreign ministers, who represent the NATO and EU member countries in SE Europe, agreed to boost their cooperation in view of the critical developments in Kosovo and the difficult situation in Serbia, and also reaffirmed their dedication to the European perspective of the western Balkans, which was rejuvenated by the recent Greek initiative '5 proposals with a timetable' while, on a regional level, they stressed the importance of cooperation in the framework of the Black Sea Cooperation Economic Cooperation (BSEC) and and the new EU neighbourhood in the Black Sea.
Stressing the need for "the region's issues to be confronted by the region itself", the three ministers decided to hold a follow-up meeting of the Greece, Bulgaria, Romania Tripartite Cooperation in the first half of 2008 in Bucharest, which will prepare for a summit meeting among the priime ministers of the three countries later in 2008, in Sofia.
Saturday's meeting focused mainly on Kosovo.
Bakoyannis told a joint press conference after the meeting, speaking on behalf of the Tripartite, that "the channels of communication between Belgrade and Pristina must remain open, regardless of what the 'following day' is", stressing "how important this is for us who are countries of the region".
"We share the same concerns, the same worries, but also the same vision for stability, peace and prosperity to the benefit of all the peoples," Bakoyannis added.
On the European perspective of the Western Balkans, which "serves as a powerful catalyst in the achievement of the above goals", Bakoyanni said that no state can be excluded from the process, including Serbia. "This rapprochement must not be linked to issues other than the European prerequisites. Any attempt at linking Serbia's European perspective with the developments in Kosovo would be erroneous and counter-productive," the Greek foreign minister said categorically. This position was endorsed by her Bulgarian and Romanian counterparts, and was recorded in a joint communique issued after the Tripartite meeting.
To a question on whether this would eliminate an incentive to Serbia for finding a solution to the Kosovo issue, Bakoyannis replied: "We don't want to place Serbia before a dilemma. No one wishes to put forward the dilemma of the European perspective with Kosovo as the counterbalance."
"I make this clear," Bakoyannis said, while Cioroianu added that "that would be unfair".
She stressed, however, that the European perspective of the Balkan neighbours must be founded on firm foundations such as respect of International Law, the International Treaties, good neighbour relations, peaceful resolution of differences, and seeking mutually acceptable solutions to outstanding issues.
Regarding the future status of Kosovo, Bakoyannis said that "we must act with lucidity, without haste, because it is a complex and complicated problem, and we must give diplomacy the opportunity to achieve a viable solution that will contribute to regional stability".
"We also believe that an international and a European presence are necessary, in accordance with the recent decisions of the European Union and NATO," Bakoyannis said, stressing the need that the international presence should be founded on the broadest and strongest possible basis of legitimisation.
In their joint communique, the three foreign ministers stress the need for the signing of an Association and Stability Pact with Serbia as soon as possible, and for the encouragement of the other countries of the region to also submit accession requests to the EU, while they also express the hope that the European Council (summit) of December 2008 will grant candidate status to every applicant.
The ministers further endorse the Greek initiative that rekindled the European perspective of the Western Balkans, which is expected to be a subject of deliberations in the EU in the first half of 2008.
Finally, the three ministers reaffirm that the BSEC comprises the main forum for regional cooperation in the region and for the rapprochement of the countries of the region with the EU.
Saturday's discussions also focused on strengthening cooperation on and confrontation of natural disasters, which plagued the countries of SE Europe this past summer, a subject that has already been put forward in the EU as well by the Greek government.
Before the Tripartite meeting, Bakoyannis had separate meetings with her Bulgarian and Romanian counterparts, respectively.
After the Tripartite, the three ministers strolled through the festively-decorated centre of Athens, followed by lunch at a downtown restaurant.
Caption: Greek foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis, flanked by her Romanian counterpart Adrian Cioroianu (R) and Bulgarian counterpart Ivaylo Kalfin (L), during a joint press conference in Athens following a meeting of the Greece-Romania-Bulgaria Tripartite Cooperation at the Greek foreign ministry. (ANA-MPA/K. Mavrona).
 Athenians' mass exodus for Christmas holidayThe inhabitants of Athens are leaving Athens in their thousands in view of the Christmas and New Year holiday.
One hundred thousand cars departed from the Greek capital on Friday alone, and another 65,000 departed on Saturday morning, while the exodus ws expected to culminate on Saturday night.
Despite the great number of vehicles which abandoned Athens, there was traffic congestion in the city centre, with the prefecture‚s main roads being blocked.
According to information given to ANA-MPA by Traffic Police Director Yiannis Mantas, there was a continuous flow of vehicles on the country's national and provincial road network, without any particular problem, except at the Maliakos Kolpos area, central Greece, where work is being carried out for the construction of a bridge.
Cars also left en mass from Thessaloniki, northern Greece, towards nearby cities.
Due to the mass exodus, the Attica Traffic Police Department announced that during the holiday season until Epiphany Day on January 6, extra measures will be taken to facilitate the smooth flow of traffic and pedestrians.
The traffic police will centre their force at airports, ports, train stations and inter-city buses but also at the difficult points of the country‚s national and provincial networks.
At the same time, traffic checks will be made on a 24-hour basis to avert dangerous violations of the traffic code.
 Major drug bust in ThessalonikiThessaloniki security police have arrested three foreign nationals -- two Albanian men and a 19-year-old Albanian woman -- charged with belonging to a drug trafficking ring that flooded the Greek market with large quantities of narcotic substances from Albania, it was announced on Saturday.
The Thessaloniki Police Headquarters announced that an Albanian national was arrested on Friday afternoon, who was believed to have shot and seriously injured a police office on October 12 to avoid a routine car inspection. The man managed to escape, but left behind his car, in which 522 grams of cocaine were found.
The detainee, who was wanted on an earlier arrest warrant, was found with a pistol and ammunition in his posession, while a search of his house in downtown Thessaloniki, turned up four packets of heroin weighing a total 42.5 grams, two packets of cocaine weighing a total 70.6 grams, and a forged Albanian passport.
Police also arrested the man's live-in companion, a 19-year-old Albanian woman.
Police later arrested a second Albanian man, the driver of an Albanian license-plate bus that carried out the Albania-Greece route on which he smuggled the narcotic substances into Greece, where he delivered them to the other two detainees.
The second man was found with 8.674 kilos of heroin and 1,100 euros in cash in his posession, while police impounded the bus. The narcotic substances were also confiscated.
The three are charged with violation of the law on narcotics, weapons and immigration, and of forgery, as well as resisting an officer and harbouring a criminal, and will be led before a public prosecutor.
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