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09 November, 2000
Greece's alternate foreign minister Elisavet Papazoi had a working meeting late Tuesday in Paris with French European Affairs Minister Pierre Moscovici, whose country currently holds the rotating six-month EU presidency.
The talks centered on the Inter-Governmental Conference (IGC), Turkey's relations with the EU and the course of Cyprus' membership negotiations with the 15-nation bloc.
"We had a lengthy, in-depth discussion," Moscovici said after the talks.
He said Greece and France believed that substantial progress had been achieved at the two-day EU informal summit in the French seaside resort of Biarritz in mid-October, at which talks were dominated by the Middle East crisis, developments in Yugoslavia and the institutional reforms of the European Union.
Moscovici said that substantial progress had been made on the two key issues of the reinforced majority vote and boosting cooperation.
He said Greece had made important moves on those two issues, at the same time maintaining specific demands, which were currently being examined.
On the other two remaining matters concerning the distribution of votes and the European Commission, he said he and Papazoi had exchanged views and was optimistic that everyone anticipated a good compromise at the EU summit in Nice next month marking the end of France's tenure in the presidency.
Referring to the issue of abolishing the current across-the-board unanimity requirement in decision-taking -- thus abolishing a member-states' ability to unilaterally veto a decision -- in a series of areas, Papazoi said that Greece had agreed to 41 of the list of 48 areas proposed by the French presidency for decision-taking by majority vote, adding that Greece was among the 4-5 countries that had made the greatest efforts in that field.
Papazoi also referred to Greece's "positive stance" on the issue of boosting cooperation.
On the issue of increasing the number of Commissioners, the Greek minister noted that the EU was separated into two divisions, one comprising the larger member countries that backed a ceiling on the number of Commissioners, and the other comprising the smaller member states that maintained it was necessary that there should be one Commissioner from every member state to ensure the democratic legality of the Commission.
"I hope that a solution is found at the Nice Summit so that we may prepare to receive the new (EU) members," Papazoi said.
Questioned by reporters on the issue of safety of sea-borne transports, Papazoi pointed out that Greece had put forward a proposal that was worked on by the French presidency, and there was now agreement on all points. "A big step forward was made on this issue during the French presidency," she added.
On Turkey's partner relationship with the EU, Moscovici said it was "necessary" to incorporate the Helsinki summit conclusions in that relationship.
"Ways must be found to recall the Helsinki conclusions in the partner relationship. We must see which ways, what position, and what form they will take. We are working on that and will seek to reach agreement by November 20, when the Ministerial Council will examine this matter. It should not be passed on (for resolution) to the Nice Summit," Moscovici said.
Papazoi said it was important that Turkey be clearly committed, via the partner relationship, to implementing the Helsinki conclusions. She said that Greece and France were not totally in agreement on this matter, not with respect to the content, but rather with respect to the degree of the commitment or the manner of implementation.
"I am certain that the French presidency will not want to carry this problem over to the Nice summit and will seek to find a way so that there will be satisfaction," she said.
On the Cyprus issue, Papazoi said that the Cyprus government was making a great effort so that a solution to the island's political problem could be found before Cyprus' accession to the EU, although such a solution was not a condition for membership.
Turkey, she said, needed also to make such an effort, "but to date it has not given any indications in that direction".
Source: Athens News Agency