The Greek Press Today
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18 September, 2006
President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias begins a five-day state visit to Germany on Monday, at the invitation of his German counterpart Horst Koehler, during which he will meet and have talks with most of the German political leadership and representatives of the more than 300,000-strong Greek community in Germany.
Strengthening relations between Greece and Germany will be at the focus of talks, and both countries have expressed a desire for this, while the framework is expected to become more specific in view of Germany's assumption of the rotating EU presidency in the first half of 2007, during which it will shoulder the difficult task of moving the issue of the European Constitution forward while at the same time preserving the cohesion of the EU '25', as well as facing a plethora of outstanding issues linked to the EU's role and identity on the international political scene.
In an interview appearing in Sunday's issue of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAS) newspaper, Papoulias reiterated his confidence that Germany and chancellor Angela Merkel can contribute decisively to the restructuring of Europe, with the thrust on maintaining the welfare state and respect for the democratic and humanistic values, differentiated from the American models.
Papoulias spent 14 years in Germany as a student and for work, both before and during the military dictatorship in Greece, while he has visited the country a number of times afterwards throughout his 30-year political career and as foreign minister, and also because his family lived in Cologne, but this will be his first visit to Germany as President of the Republic.
Papoulias, who will be accompanied by his wife May, education minister Marietta Yannakou, deputy foreign minister Evrypides Stylianidis and his close associates, arrives in Berlin on Monday morning, where he will meet at noon with Keler, while on Tuesday noon he is scheduled to attend a luncheon in his honor hosted by Merkel, which may be followed by a private meeting with the Chancellor.
Earlier on Tuesday, Papoulias will receive the leaders of the three opposition parties (FDP, Linkspartei-PDS, and Greens Party) in separate meetings.
Papoulias' busy schedule also includes visits to museums and cultural events, meetings with the president of the German parliament and the mayor of Berlin on Tuesday, while on Wednesday he will begin a tour of Potsdam, North Rhine-Westfalia, Dusseldorf, Bonn and Cologne.
In his interview with FAS, on the occasion of his visit to Germany, Papoulias stressed that if the peoples of the European countries were convinced that their political leaderships were truly determined to defend the European social model and genuine respect of the principles of democracy and liberty, differentiating themselves from the policy and practices of the US, then it would be possible to overcome the basic problems faced by the EU.
The interview, which gives a preview of the talks he will have with Koehler and Merkel, Papoulias stressed the necessity for Europe to "speak with one voice", and expressed confidence that Germany, which assumes the EU presidency on January 1, 2007, can give a boost to the stagnating process of the so-called European Constitution, making it clear that the issue concerns first of all the people and not the Brussels bureaucracy, and that the essence was in reinforcing both political and economic democracy.
The main cause of the so-called "Euro-fatigue", Papoulias said, was due to the fact that the political leaderships were not listening to the peoples, and he recommended more honesty and greater self-confidence. "The governments in the European Union must frankly tell their peoples that they wish to maintain the social state, even if at this time, in certain countries, it seems difficult to do so due to the economic problems. The European Union must thus, and with self-confidence, present itself different from the US. Not only with respect to this issue: In the European Union, freedom and democracy must truly be the highest values. It is not allowable that any EU country allow CIA prisons or a Guantanamo."
Papoulias also referred to the issues of Turkey and the Balkans, which are high on the Greek foreign policy agenda.
Regarding Turkey and its prospects for EU accession, Papoulias said with respect to its fulfillment of the membership criteria that "there can be no exceptions due to geostrategic or economic interests".
Particularly with respect to Cyprus, Papoulias stressed that "Turkey, as a member of the EU, will not be able to maintain its occupation army" on the island, thus ruling out the accession into the EU of a country that "besieges" an EU country.
"The Turkish government must abandon its obstinacy on the Cyprus issue and withdraw its troops," he said, and did not rule out a re-orientation of the Turkish political leadership, due to 'fatigue' and the domestic political cost entailed by the reforms for Turkey's adaptation to the European standards.
"The Turkish society is divided: One part wants to join the EU, another part, however, which belongs to the military, does not...," Papoulias explained.
Turning to the Balkan parameter of EU enlargement, Papoulias stressed that Bulgaria's and Romania's accession in 2007 must not be the end by the beginning of the next round of EU enlargement in the region. "If we truly want to consolidate peace in all of Europe, then sooner or later all the Balkan states must become EU members...EU will never stand firmly on its feet if countries such as Albania or Serbia are excluded from the EU.
More particularly regarding Serbia, in a question on the unsuccessful effort he had undertaken in 1995 as Greek foreign minister to negotiate peace in Kosovo with then president Slobodan Milosevic, Papoulias rejected talk that the Serbs were anti-European. "The Serbs were and are a Europe-oriented people," Papoulias said, and criticized the NATO bombings of Serbia, which he said "do not belong among the bright moments of European history".
Source: Athens News Agency