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Athens News Agency: News in English, 08-04-09

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] FM on Fried's comments
  • [02] 89.7 euros aid proposal

  • [01] FM on Fried's comments

    Greece on Tuesday again reiterated its standing position over the nagging FYROM "name issue", days after Athens followed through on its "no solution, no invitation" stance vis-à-vis the neighbouring Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FYROM) aspiration to join NATO, and a day after the latest eyebrow-raising statements by a top US State Department official regarding the landlocked one-time Yugoslav republic.

    Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis was amongst first Greek officials queried on the statements by US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Dan Fried -- who responded to press questions over the issues of "ethnicity" and "language" in FYROM a day earlier -- with the Greek FM merely noting that they (Fried's comments) "are not helpful".

    " (the) Macedonian language exists. Macedonian people exist we teach Macedonian at the (US) Foreign Service Institute. We teach Serbian, we teach Croatian, now we teach Bosnian. There's a debate in Montenegro as to Crnogorski Jezik, the Montenegrin language. All languages -- and I speak now as -- not as a bureaucrat, but as - you know, a former --a lapsed historian. All languages are human creations and they develop over time and become codified there is a Macedonian language," a State Department transcript of Fried's statements read.

    In a later clarification, State Department spokesman Tom Casey stated that "the United States does not confer official recognition on either language or ethnicity and any discussion of Macedonian as a language or ethnicity should have no bearing on the resolution between Greece and Macedonia of the name issue. We continue to urge both sides to remain engaged in the UN process and keep working toward a mutually agreed solution as soon as possible."

    Asked on Monday during a State Department briefing about the issue of "ethnicity", given an earlier reference to "Macedonia patriots", Fried said:

    "I did mention that. But, you know, this is an issue it is for people to define themselves, ultimately, I suppose. The ethnicity is - you know, it's just a fact as far as I can tell. The issue of the name is something that is on the table. And this is something to be discussed. I'm not the negotiator and I'm not, certainly, an anthropologist or an ethno-historian."

    Meanwhile, on her part, Bakoyannis in Athens reminded that the "the subject of negotiations is specific, and concerns the finding a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue "We will live together with the neighbouring country, we are in favour of its stability and prosperity, and we must look to the future We are ready for a reopening of negotiations under UN special representative Matthew Nimetz," the Greek FM said in televised comments. In a later statement, a Greek foreign ministry spokesman noted that negotiations over the FYROM "name have specific subject and target, namely, "to reach a mutually acceptable solution, that will be cohesive, practical and enforceable and does not have winners or losers." In response to US Assistant Secretary of State Fried's more intricate statements from a day earlier, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos tersely said that "we will not be carried away into discussions that could side-track negotiations from their actual objective." PASOK spokesman On his part, a spokesman for the main opposition PASOK party called Fried's comments "unacceptable", echoing initial reactions, namely, that they do not assist efforts in solving the "name issue". Spokesman George Papaconstantinou added that negotiations to resolve the pending dispute must remain within the UN framework. He also said any potential visit to Skopje by PASOK leader George Papandreou depends on the political situation in the neighbouring state. "Developments there next week may point to the best time for a visit by Mr. Papandreou, who wants -- given his extensive experience with Balkan issues -- to be useful."

    US envoy Finally, speaking on Tuesday at an Economist conference being held at a SE Athens resort, entitled 12th Roundtable with the Government of Greece, US ambassador Daniel Speckhard noted that "... the Balkans have not been a major (US presidential) campaign issue, and I do not expect them to become one as we get closer to the election. But I can tell you that our interests in the Balkans are clear. The United States wants Greece and your neighbor to the north to have strong relations; we want Kosovo to establish itself as a stable, multi-ethnic, democratic society; we want Serbia to move forward to realise its goals as a member of Europe and its institutions... "And, in all these areas, Greece is still our ally - our indispensable partner - and we look forward to continuing strong cooperation with Greece. I expect we will see little change in the US policy in this region and our desire to support Europe in taking the lead in fostering stability and integration."

    Caption:ANA-MPA file photo of Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis

    [02] 89.7 euros aid proposal

    The European Commission on Tuesday said it was proposing a grant for Greece from the European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) totalling 89.7 million to offset part of the costs incurred after devastating forest fires during the summer of 2007. This proposal to the Budget Authority (European Parliament and Council) will result in funding being made available as soon as the Authority agrees. The grant will be used to reimburse the cost of emergency measures such as rescue services, the provision of temporary housing, the cleaning up of disaster-stricken areas and the restoration of basic infrastructures to working condition.

    Danuta Hübner, European Commissioner responsible for the Solidarity Fund, said: "I had the opportunity to see the horrific fire damage in Greece for myself, so I know the scale of the needs. Last year we had several major natural disasters in Europe, devastating the lives of people both in the north and the south. We had many calls for assistance from the European Solidarity Fund, after storm Kyrill in Germany, and disastrous floods in the UK, as well as from Greece.

    Let's act on the lessons learnt: I hope Member States will finally take on board the Commission's 2005 proposal to improve the Solidarity Fund with the European Parliament's support. We proposed measures that would allow advance payments and mobilise the funds more quickly. Last year showed us just how much we need these improvements."

    In summer 2007, a large part of Greece was affected by forest fires. They were most intense and widespread in southwestern Greece, the Peloponnese, Evia and Attica. The disaster caused major damage to the economy and to basic infrastructure and the environment. Substantial costs were incurred for providing temporary accommodation and funding rescue services to meet the immediate needs of the population concerned. There were 65 deaths in the Peloponnese, in Western Greece and in Evia as a result of the fires.

    Today's proposal to mobilise a grant of 89.7 million requires the Budget Authority to adopt an amending budget. The Commission and the Greek authorities will then sign a financing agreement.

    The EU Solidarity Fund, created in 2002, grants emergency aid to EU member-states and countries involved in accession negotiations in the event of a major natural disaster. Its annual allocation amounts to 1 billion. To qualify for aid under the Solidarity Fund, countries must provide a documented estimate of the damage which is examined by the Commission in the light of specific criteria. On 6 April 2005, the Commission adopted a proposal for the new and improved EU Solidarity Fund (for 2007-2013), which would cover disasters other than those arising from natural catastrophes and with improved eligibility criteria and delivery mechanisms.

    Caption: ANA-MPA/EPA /OLIVIER HOSLET/ file photo of General view of the main press room at the European Council headquarter in Brussels.

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