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15 March, 2002
Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Thursday participated in the social summit here, one day before the opening of the informal European Union summit.
The leaders of the EU presiding troika, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, and Simitis, along with EU labor ministers and social partners discussed social issues on the basis of the Lisbon strategy.
''There was total agreement regarding the need for promoting the strategy of Lisbon and there was total agreement regarding the need for the establishment of dialogue and divergence regarding the implementation of structural changes,'' Simitis said.
The premier reiterated that the Lisbon strategy includes economic, labor and technological parameters and aims at making Europe a strong competitive power in the international community, allowing for high rates of development and maintaining the European social model, adding that in Greece many of the solid aspects of this strategy have been promoted.
Aznar, whose country is currently holding the six-month EU rotating presidency, Rasmussen and Simitis presented their opinions regarding the goals set in Lisbon.
In his presentation, Simitis stressed the need for establishing the institution of social dialogue to achieve consensus.
The social partners also made the same statement, adding, how-ever, that the dialogue has not moved forward to the employment phase, while it has covered the training and continued education phases.
''The state maintains the responsibility to secure a regulatory framework for the promotion of structural changes,'' Simitis said, an issue of disagreement between the representatives of employers and employees.
Representatives of employees noted that care has to be exercised in implementing flexibility and structural changes in public utilities, saying that limits have to be placed in the deregulation of public utilities.
Simitis said that in Greece's view there should be limits in the deregulation of air transport for example, where in the case of Greece the state must secure the access of all citizens to air transport.
Responding to questions, Simitis commented on the condition in the Middle East - which will be discussed on Friday - noting that the plans that have been submitted should be examined, while their content may produce solutions.
Regarding the ''Euro-force'', Simitis said that the issue is not a Greek-Turkish one, but rather an issue that concerns the relations of the European Union with states that are not EU members but are NATO member-states.
ND leader arrives in Spain for EPP summit on EU structural changes:
The European Peoples' Party (EPP) summit will focus on the course of structural changes, Greek main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Costas Karamanlis said on Thursday on arrival at the summit, as his party is an EPP member.
Karamanlis noted that the deregulation of the energy and telecommunications markets would be on the summit's agenda in efforts to promote competitiveness and decrease unemployment.
These issues are especially important for Greece, because the country ''has higher unemployment and lags behind (the other EU members) in real convergence terms, since living standards are close to 70 per cent of the EU average,'' Karamanlis said.
Europe should take more steps toward unification and the creation and operation of the conference on the future of Europe will provide another chance to move in that direction, he added.
Karamanlis also spoke of the special importance of the EU security and defense policy which ''because of the government's failures did not have the best outcome. Valuable time was lost and the text of Istanbul cannot be accepted by us, since there was no Greek participation in its drafting''.
''On issues of principle we are steadfastly unyielding - Greece cannot be a second class country, especially on the issue of security, nor can Greece be put on the same scale with non-EU member-states,'' Karamanlis said.
Source: Athens News Agency