10 December, 2003
ROME, 10/12/2003 (ANA)
Prime Minister Costas Simitis held talks with Italian Prime Minister and European Council President Silvio Berlusconi here on Tuesday and in statements afterwards stressed the need for the completion of the work of the intergovernmental conference on the European constitution during the European Union's summit in Brussels on December 12-13.
Simitis said that if the issue is referred to the Irish EU presidency and negotiations are prolonged for a long time there is a serious risk of divisions and confusion, adding that the EU must send a message of a common course and mutual concessions in preparations for the European constitution.
The Greek prime minister further said the European draft constitution, prepared by the constitutional assembly and presented at the Thessaloniki summit, is a good document despite its imperfections and reiterated Greece's position on the need for its ratification without great changes.
Greece, on the issue of the European Commission's composition, supports the position of ''one commissioner for each member-state with full rights'' which, as is already known, is not included in the European draft constitution.
According to reliable sources, a lengthy discussion on the issue of European defense took place during the two prime ministers' meeting, which was a dominant issue at the latest General Affairs Council meeting in Brussels.
Simitis mentioned to his Italian counterpart the proposal presented to his counterparts by Foreign Minister George Papandreou to overcome the reactions and objections of the so-called neutral countries for the ratification of the mutual assistance clause.
The same sources said the Greek side proposes a compromise formula by which decisions to be taken on the creation of the European defense will not affect the constitutional status and the special security character which certain EU member-states have. Talks between Simitis and Berlusconi were also attended by Papandreou, European Affairs Secretary General Ilias Plaskovitis, the prime minister's adviser on European issues Panayiotis Ioakimidis and the head of his diplomatic office Nikos Zafeiropoulos.
Source: Athens News Agency