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23 February, 2005
BRUSSELS 23/2/2005 (ANA/C.Poulidou)
Both the EU and the US have realized that more factors unite them rather than divide them, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said during a press conference on the sidelines of the NATO Summit held in Brussels on Tuesday.
"There have been and continue to be disagreements surrounding tactics, but in essence there is unity on basic principles. And that is a strong foundation for further cooperation," Karamanlis said. "The fight against terrorism and establishing security worldwide require mutual support for the strengthening of peace and prosperity," he added.
Speaking on what was discussed during the summit, Karamanlis mentioned the issue of Afghanistan, for which NATO leaders examined ways of further reinforcing democracy, security, development and the fight against drugs. He reminded the audience of Greece's upgraded contribution, which involved the dipsatch of a health care unit, which will remain on-site for 18 months, in addition to the engineering unit already deployed there.
On the issue of Iraq, Karamanlis said that NATO leaders considered recent elections as a step forward towards the country's democratization (based on UN resolution 1546). He also noted that Greece is contributing to the effort to train Iraqi security forces by allocating funds for that purpose.
Regarding the Middle East, the Greek premier said that the general sentiment was that prospects for implementation of the Road Map for Peace are looking positive.
Issues related to the Balkans were also discussed during the summit since the evaluation report on Kosovo will be presented in early summer. "We agree with whatever decision satisfies EU principles, the region's multiethnic character, religious freedom, minorities' rights and the protection of property and monuments," Karamanlis said.
Finally, in response to a related question, Karamanlis stated that distribution of roles among NATO members was not discussed during the summit, noting however, that Greece has already stated its willingness to take on specific initiatives related to the Balkans.
"The Balkans is a region that demands closer cooperation between the EU and the US, since consultation and coordination comprise the foundation of our Balkan policy," Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said during the EU-US Summit.
Referring to democratic reforms and free elections held in Balkan countries, Karamanlis emphasized that "EU policies and the prospect of EU participation was the driving force behind these developments, which led to the emergence of reformist and democratic leaders and in the replacement of autocratic leaders and regimes."
"EU standards and principles gradually replaced antiquated political and economic systems with democratic societies - open to all citizens - regardless of national origin or religious affiliation," he continued.
Karamanlis also referred to the problems that the region faced and which were addressed. "In the Balkans, as elsewhere, a country and a leader who do not respect the rights of all their inhabitants cannot be respected by their neighbors. Therefore, the problems that emerge in the region and which are related to organized crime and a lack of infrastructure and which were often the result of war and poor management, demand our undivided attention," he said.
The Greek premier also referred to the grave problem of unemployment in the West Balkans, emphasizing that "it must be addressed as a top priority, given the fact that millions of unemployed individuals are filled with feelings of social and national exclusion."
Finally, in reference to Kosovo, Karamanlis said that: "We all realize that the situation in the region is temporary. Our efforts deal with the next stage, during which an evaluation of standards will be carried out. We cannot return to conditions that prevailed before 1999, nor will we tolerate a situation that could lead once again to destabilization."
In closing, Karamanlis reiterated that based on the decisions taken during the 2000 Summit, "we are fully committed to the efforts of all West Balkan countries to join the EU on the basis 'clean' standards and criteria."
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis had brief meetings with several of the heads of state and government attending Tuesday's NATO summit in Brussels, among them United States President George Bush, French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
Karamanlis also had talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as well as Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Luxembourg premier Jean-Claude Juncker on the sidelines of the summit.
Afterward, the Greek premier said that he intended to begin a round of visits to European countries that had been confirmed during Tuesday's contacts, beginning with Luxembourg, Germany and France, while in the next few months he will be visiting the U.S. and the United Kingdom.
He said the foreign visits will focus on issues of mutual interest, both European and bilateral, while he stressed the need to boost close ties with natural partners and allies.
Regarding his meeting with Erdogan, Karamanlis said they had agreed to meet at the next summit since Erdogan's party had become an observer at the European People's Party (EPP).
Asked if he had received an official invitation to visit the U.S., the Greek premier said it had been discussed informally during his talks with Bush and that both sides had expressed interest in a meeting and visit, to be arranged via diplomatic channels.
During an earlier meeting between the 26 NATO leaders with newly-elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, Karamanlis said that Athens was in favor of "honest and open" dialogue between NATO and the Ukraine and congratulated Yushchenko on his recent election victory.
He said that Greece also looked to the development of balanced and friendly relations between the Ukraine and other countries and counted on it to show a constructive stance toward settling regional crises, while praising the Ukraine's contribution to peace-keeping missions.
Yushchenko had expressed the Ukraine's desire to join NATO while noting, for Russia's benefit, that it did not wish to disturb its relations with neighboring countries.
* Karamanlis also took questions regarding the briefing earlier on Tuesday of the European Commission's director general for internal market affairs Alexander Schaub on the government's "primary shareholder" bill by three government ministers, stressing his belief that the new law was necessary to impose transparency.
"We believe, as do the overwhelming majority of citizens, that rules of transparency must be imposed and this is what we are trying to do, this is the policy that we have served with consistency and steadiness."
"We have briefed the Commission, unlike the previous government, and the results will soon be apparent," he added.
Addressing press speculation that the Commissioned considered the new law incompatible with EU rules, meanwhile, Karamanlis merely noted "that my information appears to be different from yours".
Source: Athens News Agency