16 December, 2006
When Romania and Bulgaria officially join the European Union in two weeks time, the EU will have successfully completed its fifth enlargement, one that marked a decision of historic importance for the Balkan region, Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said after the end of the European leaders' summit in Brussels on Friday.
Speaking during a press conference in the Belgian capital, the Greek premier underlined that this development would also be an incentive and a message to other countries in the Balkans to fully comply with European principles and values.
Karamanlis reiterated Greece's support for the European prospects of south-eastern Europe but also emphasized that the progress made by candidate-states depended primarily on themselves and their compliance with EU criteria.
Regarding Turkey, meanwhile, he said that Athens' position could be summed up with the phrase "full compliance, full accession", noting that such a "clean" final outcome would be an incentive to Greece's neighbor to adapt to EU criteria and an effective lever for putting pressure on Turkey to conform.
The Greek premier noted that European leaders agreed to partially suspend accession talks with Turkey, in accordance with a decision by EU foreign ministers at the General Affairs Council, over its failure to implement a customs union protocol and open its ports and airports to traffic from Cyprus. He also stressed that there had been close cooperation with Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos on this issue to achieve the desired result.
"There was a double goal. On the one hand, we want Turkey to adapt to Europe and to adopt European principles, values and behavior; and on the other hand, we want to send a message that it must meet all its obligations and all the criteria in order to have progress in its accession negotiations," Karamanlis told reporters.
Greece's position on Turkey's European prospects was clear and there was no reason why it should affect bilateral relations, the Greek premier added, while denying that personal relations with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan were undergoing a crisis.
"Recently, Mr. Erdogan and myself had a conversation over the telephone, during which we may not have had agreement of views but the positions and arguments we express were understood," he said.
According to the Greek premier, the decision to suspend talks on eight chapters of the accession talks with Turkey sent a clear message, noting that the eight chapters would not be opened at all, while the remaining chapters might open but would not be closed.
Asked whether he planned to visit Turkey, Karamanlis said that the visit was outstanding and would be arranged via diplomatic channels and pointed out that Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul was expected to visit Athens soon, noting that Gul's visit had been postponed a few days earlier for purely technical reasons.
Noting that Greece had worked hard and long to ensure the now imminent accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU, the Greek prime minister said that this would make a decisive contribution to establishing stability and peace in the region.
He also emphasized Athens' political intent to gradually incorporate all the Balkan countries into united Europe.
In Serbia's case, Karamanlis said that he had discussed this country's European hopes with Serb Prime Minister Boris Tadic during their meeting in Brussels on Thursday.
He said that Greece was in favor of continuing EU enlargement but also pointed out the need to simultaneously make progress on processes to deepen Europe's unification.
The conviction was growing among European leaders that, following the arrest of process for ratifying a European Constitutional Treaty, they must now begin to seriously occupy themselves with revising European institutions and structures, Karamanlis said. On the other major issue discussed during the summit, that of controlling illegal migration, the Greek premier underlined Greece's particularly strong interest and pointed to a Greek proposal dating back to 2004 for creating a European coast guard force to police the EU's external borders.
He said that Greece was collaborating with its Mediterranean partners on this issue and expressed satisfaction that cooperation between member-states on dealing with illegal immigration was building up, step by step.
Source: Athens News Agency