19 December, 2005
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis appeared completely satisfied with a late-night agreement ironed out here on Friday evening by European Union leaders over the bloc's budget, noting that both Europe and Greece stand to benefit.
The final comprehensive proposal from the British presidency on the financial perspective for 2007-2013, agreed here this morning, provides for 862.363 billion in appropriations for commitments as the maximum total figure for expenditure for EU 27 (current 25 members plus Romania and Bulgaria).
"Many more parties were challenging for a slice of a smaller pie," was amongst Karamanlis' first statements to reporters after the EU Summit. He also referred to the expectedly tough negotiations that preceded the agreement over the 25-member bloc's 2007-2013 budget, saying that Athens worked hard to ensure that nary a euro was lost for the east Mediterranean country.
Karamanlis cited a figure of 20.1 billion euros in cohesion support for the country during the period.
Regarding the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) -- an issue of major importance to Athens because of the farm subsidies funnelled into the country's provinces -- the Greek prime minister reiterated that no changes will be made before 2013.
"... We had stated from the beginning that we would not accept a revision of CAP before 2013, and that we would insist on what had been agreed to during the Brussels summit of 2002. We persisted on this point. Put simply, CAP will remain as is until 2013. Discussions and preparations for what follows will take place, but only up to that point," the premier said.
Turning to Greece, Karamanlis said increased absorption of EU funds and continued development are the keys to the future, saying high growth rates in the country -- amongst the highest in the 'euro zone' -- have disproved Cassandras that predicted a slackening of GDP growth after the 2004 Olympics.
Additionally, he said measures initially envisioned exclusively for new EU members in a previous June proposal submitted by the then EU presidency -- an extra year added to a period for absorption of EU funds, 85-percent funding of programmes by the Union, as well as returns of VAT for co-financed projects -- will significantly benefit Greece.
"It was a long night, we're very satisfied though from the result, both for what we achieved for our country, of course, and because today we achieved a very significant EU agreement," the prime minister said.
Asked if Athens will use its veto power in case a CAP revision is attempted before 2013, Karamanlis said no agreement would have come about without a compromise, adding that many countries do not agree with a revision of CAP, including founding members of the European Union.
Finally, asked to respond to criticism by main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou that his government's targets for the summit were very modest, Karamanlis reminded that he doesn't comment on such political developments, and "continuously unfortunate statements," while overseas.
In a later reaction, top PASOK cadre Christos Papoutsis said the agreement reached at the summit was "below expectations" and in complete conflict with the expectations of European citizens. He said uncertainty within the Union derives from the difficulties faced by the European constitution and the future of expansion beyond 27 members.
Papoutsis, a former European Commissioner, also charged that the Greek government never listed its goals for the summit or what it hoped to achieve. "The only thing we heard is that they wanted an agreement, any agreement," he said, while claiming that the Greek delegation and Karamanlis opted for "behind-the-scenes" negotiations. Finally, Papoutsis charged that Greece will lose funds for agriculture development via the agreement.
Source: Athens News Agency