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01 July, 1997
President Kostis Stephanopoulos told a Bulgarian newspaper that NATO's enlargement towards central and eastern Europe should not proceed on a selective basis, but should also include Balkan countries such as Bulgaria and Romania.
"Greece is without reservation supporting Bulgaria's Euro-Atlantic orientation," President Stephanopoulos was quoted as saying in an interview, published yesterday in the Bulgarian newspaper "Truud."
Athens has strengthened efforts to support Bulgaria's NATO membership talks in the first wave of the alliance enlargement, in view of the July 8-9 summit in Madrid.
According to analysts, however, the Madrid summit is expected to invite only Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic - a smaller expansion favored by the US - to begin negotiations for NATO membership.
France, on the other hand, has argued strenuously in favor of Romania; Italy on behalf of Slovenia and Greece in support of Bulgaria.
Mr. Stephanopoulos said that "the objective of NATO's enlargement to the Balkans, this sensitive European region, is to consolidate stability and provide a sense of security," he said, adding that Bulgaria's NATO membership should be deemed necessary no t just for Greece but for the remaining European states.
Even if Bulgaria fails to be included in the first wave of NATO enlargement, Mr. Stephanopoulos said Athens would continue to raise the issue in an effort to include the country in NATO's second wave of expansion.
Mr. Stephanopoulos also touched on what he called the excellent Greek-Bulgarian cooperation as a model for the region and enhanced stability in the Balkans.
"Greek-Bulgarian cooperation is of primary importance for the stability in the Balkans and for positive developments in the region," President Stephanopoulos told the newspaper.
"I believe that the Bulgarian president's visit will give us the opportunity to reaffirm our shared desire for those decisions which will serve our mutual interests," he said. Turning to other issues, the Greek president said that Athens had no anxieties regarding the upgrade of Bulgarian-Turkish relations, adding however, that "Turkey's conduct towards Greece endangers peace not just in the Aegean, but in the entire region."
Source: Athens News Agency