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27 March, 2002
Deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos conveyed a message by Prime Minister Costas Simitis to the NATO candidate countries' summit (''Vilnius 10'' group), which came to an end on Tuesday, on the alliance's upcoming enlargement.
The summit was attended by the 10 heads of state and government of candidate countries (Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania).
''At NATO's upcoming enlargement, apart from political, defense and military criteria, the geographic balance of enlargement should also be taken into consideration. In this framework, Greece supports NATO's enlargement in the Balkans,'' the message said.
Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit also participated in Monday's session.
At the end of the summit, Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase thanked Greece and Turkey for their support.
A joint meeting of the foreign ministers of Greece, Turkey and candidate countries Bulgaria and Romania will take place in Athens on March 29.
FYROM Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski called on Loverdos to convey a request to Foreign Minister George Papandreou for FYROM to participate in this meeting.
The message by Simitis said ''you do not need to be reminded of the fact that NATO has already taken the historic decision of an open door policy, as well as that the zero option for Prague is off the table. It means that in the short rather than in the long term no European democracy will be excluded from NATO on the basis of geography or history. We all share the belief that Europe's political and security architecture will not be complete until all countries become full fledged members.''
It went on to say that ''having reassured you about our political will, may I mention the practical issues closely linked with the enlargement procedure. When establishing the Membership Action Plan we laid down the political and military requirements to be fulfilled. We have been following with great interest the gradual fulfillment of these requirements and we have helped as much as possible to bring you closer to our concepts. We intend to keep backing you in every possible way.''
Simitis also stressed that ''my country's position is clear and it has been so ever since enlargement discussions started in the mid-90's; full enlargement is the ultimate goal. Although we subscribe to the Alliance's approach that each candidature has its own merits and should be examined separately, Greece believes that on the basis of a comprehensive security concept the impending enlargement must encompass a balanced geographical dimension.''
The prime minister added that ''with this in mind it is only natural that we are actively supporting together with other Allies the Balkan dimension of the enlargement, as we believe that such a process would undoubtedly add to the overall military, social and economic security of our region.''
Source: Athens News Agency