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Athens News Agency Bulletin, February 15, 1995

(Apo to Ellnviko Grafeio Tupou kai Plnroforiwv, Ottawa, Canada

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  • [1] European Parliament MPs say Turkish human rights record not worthy of customs union with EU

  • [2] COREPER make no headway on amending ad referendum agreement

  • [3] Mangakis reports to Parliament on Brussels agreement

  • [4] PASOK members disagree on need for new international Athens airport

  • [5] Arsenis to sign defence agreement with Romania

  • [6] Crvenkovski: FYROM ready to talk to Greece but only with the UN present

  • [7] Vasso Papandreou: set up a Balkans Council to use EU programmes

  • [8] German envoy

  • [9] Interior minister meets with premier

  • [1] European Parliament MPs say Turkish human rights record not worthy of customs union with EU

    Strasbourg, 15/02/1995 (ANA - M. Savva / P. Stangos):

    Turkey's poor human rights record seems set to lead the European Parliament to reject its proposed customs union with the European Union. Draft resolutions submitted by the European Parliament's various political groupings yesterday foretold an almost certain rejection of the proposed customs union.

    Most of the proposals call on the Ministers' Council not to proceed to a ratification of the customs union during the meeting of the Turkey-EU Association Council on March 6 and 7. The proposals are expected to take on a unified form and will be debated tomorrow.

    At a discussion at the chamber yesterday on the EU's projected customs union with Turkey, in the form of a formula linking the start of Cyprus entry talks to the EU with the achievement of customs union, most Eurodeputies were critical of the state of human rights in Turkey and rather aggressive towards the Council of Ministers for deciding to go ahead with the customs union.

    The European Parliament in December last year voted to call on the EU to stop procedures to achieve customs union with Turkey because of its poor human rights record, underlined by Ankara's sentencing of eight Kurdish MPs to jail on charges of sedition.

    PASOK Eurodeputy and formerly Greece's foreign Under-Secretary for European affairs Yiannos Kranidiotis termed the customs union agreement "concessions by the EU and not Turkey." He said a strong political message should be sent to Turkey that Europe could not accept it unless it provided guarantees on democratisation and respect for human rights.

    Socialist group leader Pauline Green termed the package "one-sided." "You want us to exchange customs union with a time horizon for accession negotiations with Cyprus. This is impossible," she said.

    Katerina Daskalaki (Political Spring) spoke on behalf of the European Democrats Group (RDE), saying "the customs union between the EU and Turkey has become the condition for Cyprus' accession to the EU while it should be the other way round."

    European People's Party leader Wilfried Martens said the fact accession negotiations for Cyprus would get under way six months after the intergovernmental conference was a very important event. Speaking on behalf of the Liberal Group, Dutch Eurodeputy Willhem Bertens said the Council had "forgotten" the Kurds and human rights and pondered why they should have to turn a blind eye.

    French European Affairs Minister Alain Lamassoure and EU Commissioner for External Relations Hans van den Broek strongly urged the European Parliament yesterday to accept the "package" proposed in Brussels on February 6, which the Greek government has requested be amended.

    Referring to the Greek request for an "improvement" of conditions contained in the package to facilitate the disengagement of the customs union between Turkey and the European Union from Greek reservations, Mr. Lamassoure said "accession negotiations for Cyprus will start six months after the intergovernmental conference", adding that it was a "commitment" undertaken by himself and French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe for the Cyprus government.

    Mr. Lamassoure insisted on the setting of a time for accession negotiations for Cyprus, saying that "the Brussels agreement is a step ahead of the corresponding formulation at the Corfu summit". He indirectly indicated that prolonging the status quo concerning Cyprus and relations between the EU and Turkey favoured neither the Greek community in Cyprus nor democratic forces in Turkey.

    Mr. Lamassoure referred to the history of relations between Turkey and the EU and set out the following general compromise solution package which he termed a "wise and balanced proposal": The customs union between Turkey and the EU should take effect as of January 1, 1996 after the framework of political dialogue is set out and after the ECOFIN Council defines an economic co-operation framework. Accession negotiations for Cyprus should start six months after the intergovernmental conference. Progress should be achieved concerning respect for human rights in Turkey.

    Commissioner Hans van den Broek was more critical of the situation in Turkey and, invoking a recent report by human rights group Amnesty International, urged a "closer watch" on developments. However, he said, "political realism" obliged him to side with the view put forward by the French EU Presidency that "no more time should be lost in promoting customs union with Turkey."

    [2] COREPER make no headway on amending ad referendum agreement

    Brussels, 15/02/1995 (ANA - G. Daratos):

    Permanent diplomatic representatives of European Union member-states failed to come to a conclusion in two-hour talks yesterday which included a discussion of a letter by Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou requesting amendments to four points in the package of issues decided by the 15 EU foreign ministers on February 6 on Turkey's customs union with the EU and a starting date for Cyprus' accession negotiations with the EU.

    Germany was categorically negative and dismissive of all Greek claims while the British representative called on his Greek counterpart Mr. Apostolidis to provide clarifications without making any comments himself.

    Two of the four Greek claims look to be amended. Both concern Cyprus and are related to clearer formulation on setting a date for accession negotiations to start and a "structural dialogue" between the Community and Cyprus to better pave the way for the island's accession to the EU. But even on these two points, Germany was negative.

    The two other points, an amendment to the formulation or substance of the text governing financial co-operation between the EU and Turkey and additional Community economic support for the Greek textiles industry, were rejected outright by Greece's Community partners.

    On the question of financial co-operation, the argument put forward was that it constituted an "indivisible part of the package containing the customs union and a start to Cyprus' accession negotiations and if Athens does not accept customs union then the partners will have no commitment towards Cyprus."

    It was also made clear that funds would not be given to the Greek textiles industry because it would set a precedent for the Spanish and Italian textiles industries, while Germany would have a similar grave problem with residents in the eastern Lander (former East Germany).

    Many delegations criticised Greece, saying no country had the right to obstruct the shaping of Community policy to settle its own domestic problems. Fears were also expressed over the possibility that in the event Greek claims were accepted Athens might put forward more claims later if the four points were met.

    After yesterday's deadlock in finding a satisfactory solution to the four Greek claims, the issue must either be referred to a future meeting of the Permanent Representatives Committee or to some special council of ministers, but not to the one taking place in Brussels today. The sole regular Council of Foreign Ministers is that due to take place on March 6 and at which Turkey's customs union with the EU will be discussed.

    [3] Mangakis reports to Parliament on Brussels agreement

    Athens, 15/02/1995 (ANA):

    Alternate Foreign Minister George Alexander Mangakis said in Parliament yesterday that the Cypriot political leadership was in agreement with the Brussels outline agreement concerning the setting of a date for a start to negotiations for Cypriot full membership and Turkey's customs union with the EU. He added that he had been in constant contact with Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides and Foreign Minister Alecos Michaelides.

    Mr. Mangakis described as "diplomatic" the wording in the text of the agreement that "negotiations can start six months after the end of the intergovernmental conference of 1996", and noted that it provided a clear political commitment.

    Questioned whether the lifting of the Greek veto concerned not only Turkey's customs union, but also the Fourth Financial Protocol, Mr. Mangakis said that Greece had never opposed the customs union but had only asked that it be linked to the issue of negotiations for Cypriot membership. "We used the veto in order to exercise pressure. And we succeeded," he said.

    Finally, he said the Brussels agreement significantly enhanced Cyprus' international role, and the Cypriot government is officially recognised as the sole and exclusive interlocutor of the European Union. "The Cyprus problem is at last extricated from the deadly quagmire that used to work in Turkey's favour," he said.

    [4] PASOK members disagree on need for new international Athens airport

    Athens, 15/02/1995 (ANA):

    Ruling PASOK party deputies yesterday disagreed over the necessity of the planned new international airport at Spata, east of Athens, the construction of which was pledged by Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou prior to elections.

    Speaking before the parliamentary committee responsible for overseeing the project, Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis said that the new airport was a necessity for Greece and "a positive response" to the European Union's inter-European networks policy.

    However, PASOK deputy and former minister Theodore Pangalos said he would vote against the relevant bill which will be tabled for ratification by Parliament. "Athens does not need a new luxury airport of doubtful usefulness," Mr. Pangalos said. Reservations as to the necessity of the airport were also expressed by PASOK deputies Vassilis Kedikoglou and Constantine Vrettos.

    The construction of the Spata airport, at an estimated cost of 2.3 billion dollars has been awarded to a consortium led by the German firm Hochtief. Under the terms of a revised contract, the Hochtief group will own 45 per cent of a company to be set up with the Greek state to operate the airport.

    Situated 15 miles east of Athens, the airport will initially have two runways and a terminal capacity of close to 16 million passengers annually. The completion date has been set for 1999. The European Commission has expressed criticism of the procedure followed in allocating the project, while local government officials, environmental organisations and local residents have voiced opposition to the airport.

    [5] Arsenis to sign defence agreement with Romania

    Athens, 15/02/1995 (ANA):

    National Defence Minister Gerasimos Arsenis leaves for Bucharest tomorrow, for an official two-day visit to Romania during which he will sign a defence agreement between the two countries. Mr. Arsenis will also visit Bulgaria shortly after his return to Athens.

    [6] Crvenkovski: FYROM ready to talk to Greece but only with the UN present

    Skopje, 15/02/1995 (ANA - M. Vichou):

    Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Foreign Minister Stevo Crvenkovski, who returned from the United States yesterday, said that his country was in favour of continuing a direct dialogue with Greece, but only in the presence of a United Nations mediator.

    Mr. Crvenkovski met with UN mediator on the issue Cyrus Vance in New York recently, but without recording any progress on the issue of talks with Greece, which were interrupted in May 1993. "No new idea or initiative was presented during the meeting with Mr. Vance," he said. He added that his government "rejects negotiations on particular issues, such as the embargo, despite the fact that the cost from its imposition exceeds $60 million monthly".

    [7] Vasso Papandreou: set up a Balkans Council to use EU programmes

    Athens, 15/02/1995 (ANA):

    Former European Commissioner Vasso Papandreou yesterday recommended the establishment of a Council of Balkan Countries aiming at utilising European Union (EU) programmes on the Balkans. Ms Papandreou, an MP of the ruling PASOK party, also called for re-orientation of Greek foreign policy in the Balkans.

    Addressing the final session of the second "Greece and the Balkans - Business Co-operation" conference in Thessaloniki, Ms Papandreou spoke of "unacceptable negligence and big words lacking content" with respect to Greek foreign policy in the Balkans. "Our foreign policy requires re-orientation," she said, adding that, regarding undertaking initiatives with continuity and consistency "our foreign policy is in a state of winter hibernation".

    Turning to the issue of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Ms Papandreou said that "the well-known difficulties in our relations with Skopje should not render the assumption of initiatives in the region impossible". "Frequently, we use the Skopje thorn as a pretext for avoiding the assumption of such initiatives," she said.

    Main opposition New Democracy deputy Costas Karamanlis told delegates inter alia that the Greek retortion measures against Skopje had not benefited Greece's inter-state relations adding, in reply to a press question, that "from the moment they (the retortion measures) did not bear fruit, a way should have been found to lift them". Coalition of the Left and Progress Eurodeputy Michalis Papayiannakis called for the immediate lifting of the Greek retortion measures.

    The two-day conference is organised by the Federation of Industries of Northern Greece (SBBE) in co-operation with the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce and the Macedonia-Thrace Bank. The sessions yesterday dealt with upgrading the role of northern Greece under the new economic conditions in the wider region, the mechanisms for supporting business co-operation, modernisation of Thessaloniki's Macedonia Airport, Thessaloniki's development into a springboard for investments in the Balkans, business co-operation in the Balkans, and Greek foreign policy in relation to the new state of affairs in the Balkans.

    A panel discussion on Greek foreign policy in the region included Coalition president Nikos Konstantopoulos and MPs Theodoros Pangalos (PASOK) and Stephanos Manos (ND), co-ordinated by Ambassador Constantine Zepos.

    Other speakers include National Defence Minister Gerasimos Arsenis, German Ambassador to Greece Leopold von Bredow, and the prime minister's economic advisor, Louka Katseli. The conference is being attended by members of the Greek and Balkan governments, foreign diplomats and businessmen.

    [8] German envoy

    Athens, 15/02/1995 (ANA):

    In his address to the conference, Germany's ambassador to Athens Leopold von Bredow said an EU-Turkey customs deal could provide new economic opportunities for Greece. Athens has objected to the provisional customs deal saying four points had to be cleared up before committing to the key trade pact that could open the way for closer relations between Turkey and the 15-member bloc.

    Greece's concern focuses on Cyprus' candidacy to the EU, Cyprus' participation in dialogue with the EU on the same level as that between the EU and East European states, financial aid to Turkey and compensation for Greek textile industries.

    Mr. von Bredow also urged Greece to settle outstanding differences with its neighbours, saying it could play a strong economic role in the Balkans. "The settlement of Greece's problems with its neighbours will not only reduce tension in the region but will allow the country to take on a significant economic role in the region," he said.

    [9] Interior minister meets with premier

    Athens, 15/02/1995 (ANA):

    Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou yesterday received Alternate Interior Minister George Daskalakis who told reporters afterwards "the Interior Ministry is always ready for elections but this issue was not the object of our conversation today".

    Replying to questioners, Mr. Daskalakis said he briefed the prime minister on the course of programmes and the ministry in general. They also discussed political developments and Mr. Daskalakis expressed the view that "these will be a decision by PASOK tomorrow which will in fact prove that the possibility of (general) elections is receding".

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