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09 January, 2003
The French newspaper Le Monde published an interview with Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis in its edition on Thursday, titled ''Turkey has been a European power since the 16th century. It would be negative for us to exclude it.''
Referring to a statement by former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing before the European Union's Copenhagen summit that Turkey has no place in the EU, Simitis said ''the European identity can be examined from many aspects, as geographic, political and economic. But I do not agree that there is a religious criterion. Turkey had already been a major European power since the 16th century and the Ottoman empire played a role in the creation of Europe as it is today.''
The prime minister further said ''it would be politically negative for Turkey to be excluded because it can play, together with Europe, a role in the Middle East and central Asia. It is an important partner. Francois I had allied with (Sultan) Suleyman and there was this Franco-Ottoman axis against the Hapsburgs. Mr. Giscard d'Estaing forgot that it was France that brought Turkey into Europe. In any case, Turkey can be a European Union member.''
Simitis, commenting on domestic developments in Turkey, said ''regarding Turkey's internal development, I believe it has entered, after the November elections, a phase in which answers can no longer be postponed, as was the case for years. It is clear for the majority of the Turkish people that democratization and economic stability are essential preconditions for the country's recovery. In order to achieve this, it should confront the political, economic and military establishment. Therefore, we must expect conflicts between the institutions. But the pro-European orientation will not be questioned.''
He said the Development and Justice Party, Turkey's ruling party, represents underprivileged social classes which have an interest in change.
On the question of whether a solution can be found to the issue of Cyprus by February 28, Simitis said ''all sides, primarily the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots should make a very great effort to benefit from the present momentum. If there is evasion, a solution will not be possible. The decision taken in Copenhagen last December to accept Cyprus will help cooperation between the two communities considerably. Greece has stressed that the UN secretary general's proposals can lead the conflict to a solution. We must not miss the train.''
Referring to the issue of Iraq and whether the EU can reach a joint stand, particularly between the British and German positions, Simitis said ''it is absolutely possible because at the moment four EU member-states are Security Council members: Great Britain, France, Germany and Spain. I got the impression from discussions I have had so far that there is a will to find a common policy, particularly in favor of a second resolution by the Security Council.''
Simitis, focusing on the priorities of the EU's Greek presidency, said ''the first priority is to complete the enlargement process. We shall sign the accession treaty here in Athens on April 16. We want to send the message that Europe is forging ahead. We want a greater Europe and a more united Europe.''
Commenting on whether he supports the European group's harmonization of economic policies between countries having adopted the single currency, Simitis said ''I think it is necessary'', adding that ''I shall speak to you with great sincerity: It will be very difficult to have all these issues settled in a Europe of the 25. I do not support a multi-speed Europe, but Europe can only develop with a single nucleus to enable it to continue the course forward.''
Regarding the idea of an EU president being appointed by the European Council, the prime minister said ''the Greek view is that we should have a strong Commission and not have two decision-making poles, the Commission and the Council. Otherwise, the EU is in danger of becoming an intergovernmental union and not heading towards the federal model we desire.''
Source: Athens News Agency