03 December, 2003
BRUSSELS 03/12/2003 (ANA/G. Zitouniati)
Greece will participate in the initial nucleus of European Union member-states that will create the European defense, Greek Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said on Tuesday here.
''Greece will participate along with France and Germany in the first nucleus, which will be created for European defense, following an agreement between French President (Jacques) Chirac, German Chancellor (Gerhard) Schroeder and British Prime Minister (Tony) Blair and which became a reality during the latest summit of the Intergovernmental Conference for the finalizing of the European Constitution,'' Papantoniou noted after the meetings.
''It is the first time in modern Greek history that our country is participating in the beginning of a great European effort co-formulating elements in a compatible way with our national interests as well,'' he added.
Speaking of the NATO two-day summit here, which concluded on Tuesday, the defense minister said that the reactions of the United States and those of the alliance were mild and did not question the development of the European defense.
''It is obvious that the US - at the highest political level - have agreed with the development of this initiative. And the participation of Britain in the European effort has lessened especially the American reactions,'' he said.
He reiterated a recent statement that the participation of Britain provides credibility for the European effort, noting that for the European defense to be credible and have greater range it will have to operate in a complementary fashion with NATO and not antagonistically to it.
The Greek minister, responding to journalists' questions said that the European defense issue, as it relates to the European Constitution has been finalized, but that the final form of the new institution has not been worked out yet.
He added that work by experts is necessary, with the participation of military officers and diplomats from different countries, so as to arrive at decisions concerning the size of the staff, the range of the new institution and its operations.
Papantoniou underlined, however, that in discussion with his counterparts from France and Germany, it became apparent that this new institution will not have but a small staff.
Later in the day, Papantoniou briefed the European Socialists at the Europarliament on developments concerning the European defense.
Source: Athens News Agency