17 October, 2003
BRUSSELS 17/10/2003 (ANA/M. Spinthourakis-V. Demiris)
Prime Minister Costas Simitis outlined Greece's positions at the Intergovernmental Conference of European Union member-states, entrusted with preparing Europe's constitution, while speaking at a press conference at the end of the first session of the EU summit yestreday in Brussels.
Simitis said the first signs of convergence exist among the positions of EU member-states, adding that what is necessary is not the preparation of a legal text but speeding up the process towards European integration.
The prime minister reiterated that the European draft constitution prepared by the Convention on the Future of Europe constitutes a good basis for consultations.
Regarding the European Council president, he said Greece supports the appointment of a ''long-term'' president, believing that in this way continuity and consistency in EU activities will be safeguarded.
However, Greece believes that the issue of relations between the European Council president and the European Commission president must be examined.
As far as the European Commission is concerned, Greece believes that all member-states must be represented on equal terms and with one Commissioner at the Commission, but its president must have an increased margin of powers in relation to the allocation of duties for Commissioners.
For the Council of Ministers, Greece supports the rotating assumption of Council presidencies by a group of three countries every year.
Concerning the system of ratifying decisions, Greece is of the opinion that what is necessary for a decision to be ratified is that the majority of member-states must agree with it, on condition that they also represent the majority of the EU's population. Simitis said Spain and Poland continue to disagree with this view, who want the population percentage to increase from 51 percent to 66.
On the question of European defense, if a group of countries willing to promote reinforced cooperation in the defense sector is finally created Greece will participate.
Greece agrees, with regard to constitutional revision, that procedures should be anticipated for the possible revision of the constitution of Europe if this is considered necessary in the future.
Referring to other issues on the summit's agenda, Simitis noted the intention of France and Germany to vote at the UN in favor of the new draft resolution submitted by the US on Iraq, despite the fact they consider it to be unsatisfactory and, consequently, they will not contribute from a military point of view.
Commenting on the content of his brief talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Simitis said it concerned the upcoming visit to Greece by the Turkish foreign minister and that this visit could contribute to a further improvement in Greek-Turkish relations.
Turning his attention to the Middle East question, he said EU High Commissioner Javier Solana is continuing contacts with Israelis and Palestinians, but stressed that the high commissioner termed the situation in the Middle East ''chaotic''.
Simitis also mentioned that he raised the issue of the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece with his British counterpart Tony Blair on the sidelines of the summit.
''All Greeks want the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece,'' he said, adding that ''we have every interest in having this issue resolved as soon as possible.''
He further said it would be good if this took place before the elections ''which will take place in April or on May 2'' since a period of about six months remains from now until that date, which is a bigger period than the approximately three months separating the elections from the Olympic Games which will begin on August 13.
Greek economy's competitiveness: The Greek government believes the new initiative being undertaken by the European Union will facilitate an ''improvement in the long-term competitiveness of the Greek economy, a speedup in investments and in the participation of private initiative.''
Speaking at the press conference, Prime Minister Costas Simitis indicated that following the relevant decision taken at the Thessaloniki EU summit, the European Council decided that in the framework of European activities for development a series of projects should be included which are expected ''to improve the EU's productivity and competitiveness and will enable the development of SMEs.''
The total of 29 projects include four of particular interest to Greece, but it was noted that all the projects will not begin simultaneously but will be developed in accordance with their maturity, while Simitis stressed that ''this is a problem we often face in Greece where projects delay in maturing.''
Simitis also said during the press conference that the issue of immigration and of border management was examined by the 15 EU leaders on Thursday in the wake of decisions taken at the Thessaloniki summit, some of which are moving forward at a very satisfactory pace.
He added that agreements on the readmission of illegal immigrants have been promoted and credits have been secured to finance the relevant fund entrusted with this issue.
The 15 leaders will also have to ratify the agreement on the establishment of some new sea and air border control centers, one of which will be headquartered in Greece.
Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said on his part ''the integration of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) did not produce the desired result. Namely, an increase in competitiveness and speedy growth'', adding that the Stability Pact was criticized ''as being the main culprit for the lack of growth.''
Source: Athens News Agency