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Athens News Agency Bulletin, February 17, 1995

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

E-Mail Address:


  • [1] Greece, Romania look forward to stronger defence ties after Arsenis signs accord in Bucharest

  • [2] NATO expansion

  • [3] Greece thankful for US help in securing release of ethnic Greek four

  • [4] Greece working with French presidency: customs union can go ahead if changes made to Brussels formula

  • [5] Europarliament critical of Turkish human rights record

  • [6] Venizelos reiterates: no question of reshuffle

  • [7] Parliament to begin electing new President ahead of May 5 deadline? first round to be held Friday

  • [8] Greece says trade embargo on FYROM 'successful', on anniversary of imposition

  • [1] Greece, Romania look forward to stronger defence ties after Arsenis signs accord in Bucharest

    Bucharest, 17/02/1995 (ANA - G. Zarkadis):

    Romania and Greece signed a military accord in Bucharest yesterday aimed at boosting defence ties between the two countries.

    The accord, signed by visiting National Defence Minister Gerasimos Arsenis who began his three-day official visit yesterday, and his Romanian counterpart Gheorghe Tinca, provides for closer military ties, exchange of information and joint exercises.

    "This accord confirms that both countries want to improve relations in all fields," Mr. Arsenis said.

    "It sets the legal ground for the two armies' co-operation in the interest of peace and stability in our area," Mr. Tinca added, during a joint news conference with Mr. Arsenis.

    Mr. Tinca said Romania had similar accords with its neighbours, to develop co-operation in the defence industry and equip its army with advanced military technology.

    Mr. Arsenis said Greece would back Romania's efforts to integrate into European defence and security structures including its eventual bid to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as a member.

    "Beyond the letter of agreement," Mr. Arsenis said "I would like to underline that the atmosphere created and the open meetings held for the exchange of views on the developments in the area with two basic axis: the examining of probable common initiatives for the promotion of peace in the Balkans which is an integral part of Europe and a study for the finding of a solution to the Yugoslav crisis."

    Asked whether he discussed the assumption of a joint initiative for the lifting of the embargo against Serbia with Romanian Foreign Affairs Minister Theodor Melescanou during their meeting yesterday, Mr. Arsenis said they had discussed the issue and that "something may arise".

    The two ministers said that this May, a joint military exercise will be held in the south of Greece with the participation of American forces and that many countries will participate as observers, including Germany which will take part in the next joint exercises.

    Mr. Tinca said that naval exercises will follow in the future, and will aim at the establishment of peace, underlining that there is hope and strong will for the development of co-operation. He added that if the UN request the dispatch of troops by Romania to man the peacekeeping force in Cyprus, his country would consider the request. Mr. Tinca also underlined the Greek army will train a commando unit of the Romanian army.

    Mr. Arsenis concluded that the joint exercises can lead to the creation of joint peace forces in the future, such as the one created by Denmark with the Baltic countries.

    [2] NATO expansion

    Bucharest, 17/02/1995 (ANA):

    Mr. Arsenis also referred yesterday to Nato's plans to expand towards East Europe saying that it aims at stabilising the region and not the isolation of Russia.

    "Nato's expansion towards eastern Europe will follow a process which will not oppose Russian interests. Collective security in Europe should include the eastern region, in order for it to stabilise," Mr. Arsenis said during the press conference.

    Earlier yesterday, Russian President Boris Yeltsin slammed NATO plans to include East European states, saying "hasty expansion" was detrimental to building a genuine security system in Europe.

    Mr. Arsenis said that the expansion of the Alliance will require time and that Nato's "Partnership for Peace" was a flexible agreement for real defence co-operation between former Cold War opponents.

    "The expansion should not create privileges for certain countries and tears for others," Mr. Arsenis said, adding that "the Balkan countries should not remain outside the process. The expansion should not only consist exclusively of eastern and central European countries."

    Mr. Tinca said that "they who consider that NATO is the same as it was five years ago, are wrong. NATO is not expanding towards the east, it is the eastern European countries that are moving towards the west".

    Partnership, association and further integration of East European states into NATO was in the interest of "a peaceful and democratic evolution in Russia, too," Mr. Tinca added.

    "By joining NATO, Romania does not intend to be hostile towards Russia. Every position concerning this issue should begin from what is new in Europe, not from old mentalities," he said.

    With northern and eastern borders with the former Soviet Union, Romania sees integration with Western economic, political and security structures as a top strategic goal.

    Romania was the first East European country to sign up for Nato's PFP plan in January 1994.

    [3] Greece thankful for US help in securing release of ethnic Greek four

    Athens, 17/02/1995 (ANA):

    Greece said yesterday it was satisfied with US mediation efforts that helped lead to the release of four ethnic Greeks in Albania imprisoned for espionage.

    Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias praised US President Bill Clinton's keen interest and commitment to helping resolve unstable disputes in the Balkans.

    He was speaking to reporters after a meeting with Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou whom he briefed on developments in Greek-Albanian relations, the EU-Turkey customs union, as well as relations between Athens and Skopje.

    Mr. Papoulias said he planned to visit Tirana for talks with his Albanian counterpart Alfred Sereqi in March, but did not elaborate.

    He also referred to a meeting yesterday between US Foreign Under-Secretary Richard Holbrooke and Greek Ambassador to Washington Lucas Tsilas.

    Mr. Papoulias thanked Mr. Holbrooke for his mediation efforts which led to the release of the four Omonia members.

    The four leading members of the Omonia ethnic Greek organisation were released by an Albanian court last month.

    Their conviction last year prompted fierce reaction from Athens, plunging relations between the two southern Balkan neighbours to their lowest point in years.

    Greece and Albania have been at odds for years over the ethnic Greek minority, estimated at 400,000 by Greece.

    [4] Greece working with French presidency: customs union can go ahead if changes made to Brussels formula

    Athens, 17/02/1995 (ANA):

    Greece said yesterday it was working with the French presidency of the European Union in a bid to iron-out details that could open the way for a key trade pact between the 15-member bloc and Turkey.

    "Greece is in continuous contact with the French presidency and other Union member-states in an effort to rephrase a provisional customs union deal between the European Union and Turkey," govern-ment spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said.

    Athens last week voiced strong objections to the provisional deal agreed by EU foreign ministers, saying certain aspects were disadvantageous for Greece.

    Among the reasons stated in its four-point objection, Greece said the deal was vague on when EU entry negotiations for Cyprus would begin.

    "Either Greece's positions will be unanimously accepted... or it will continue to exercise its veto," Mr. Venizelos said. He added Athens was in close contact with Cyprus, briefing the government on developments over the issue.

    Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias said later he was optimistic that Greece's positions on the customs union pact would be adhered to by its EU partners. "Our country is trying to improve what was achieved in the first phase of negotiations (on the issue). I believe the result will be positive," he told reporters. He was speaking after a meeting with Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou on developments in Greek foreign policy issues.

    [5] Europarliament critical of Turkish human rights record

    Strasbourg, 17/02/1995 (ANA):

    Meanwhile in Strasbourg, the European Parliament yesterday threw further doubt on EU plans for the lucrative customs deal with Turkey, saying Ankara's human rights record was too poor for the deal to be allowed to continue.

    Euro-MPs adopted a resolution describing Turkey's rights record as "too grave to allow for the formation of the proposed custom union at present." They said they would not approve a deal granting Turkey access to EU markets unless they heard reports of progress in the human rights area. Under the Maastricht treaty, the parliament, the EU's only directly-elected body, has the power to block deals such as the customs union.

    European Union foreign ministers have been working hard to agree a deal that would allow Greece to drop its veto of the customs union. In exchange for Athens lifting its objections, the EU would begin negotiation on EU membership with Cyprus six months after the end of the bloc's review of its own future, at the 1996 intergovernmental conference.

    Yesterday's move by the parliament means that even if Greece does lift its veto at a scheduled March 6 meeting in Brussels, major hurdles still lie ahead. Euro-MPs have long been critical of Turkey's human rights record, particularly its treatment of its Kurdish minority. In their-resolution, they urged the Turkish government to reform the country's constitution "to better guarantee the protection of democracy and human rights." They said they would make approval of the customs union conditional on interim progress reports.

    British Socialist Euro-MP Pauline Green, who heads the assembly's largest single political group, said on Tuesday that parliament should reconsider the question in September.

    [6] Venizelos reiterates: no question of reshuffle

    Athens, 17/02/1995 (ANA):

    Government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos reiterated yesterday that there was no question of a government reshuffle, adding that the government was functioning satisfactorily in its present form.

    Replying to questioners on the possible entry into the government of such cadres as Dimitris Tsovolas, Vasso Papandreou and Theodoros Pangalos, Mr. Venizelos said that a past statement of his that distinguished members of the ruling PASOK party could be summoned to offer their services to the government as well still held. Mr. Venizelos said the statement also concerned all of PASOK's Parliamentary members.

    [7] Parliament to begin electing new President ahead of May 5

    deadline? first round to be held Friday Athens, 17/02/1995 (ANA):

    Greece's Parliament will begin procedures to elect a new President of the Republic next Friday, House President Apostolos Kaklamanis announced yesterday. Mr. Kaklamanis said he brought forward the date for the election after a meeting with outgoing President Constantine Karamanlis, who said he would resign immediately after the election of his successor and well in advance of the expiry date of his term on May 5.

    Under the Greek Constitution, Parliament can make up to three attempts to elect a President, otherwise it must dissolve and general elections be held. A two-thirds majority of 200 votes is required in the first and second rounds, while a three-fifths majority of 180 votes suffices in the third round to elect a President.

    Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, whose ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement controls 170 seats in the House, announced on Wednesday that his party would back Kostis Stephanopoulos, the candidate also proposed by the Political Spring party, which controls 11 seats.

    Mr. Kaklamanis said that if Parliament failed to elect a President in the first and second rounds -- which will be held on February 24 and March 2 respectively -- the third and final vote would be held on March 8.

    The main opposition New Democracy party, which controls 109 seats, has proposed former Parliament President Athanassios Tsaldaris as its own candidate.

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE), which has nine seats, and independent Michalis Papaconstantinou, a former ND foreign minister, have not yet announced what stand they would take in the vote.

    Meanwhile, the main opposition party called on its cadres to show allegiance to the party's conservative presidential candidate Athanassios Tsaldaris. The call was voiced by New Democracy press spokesman Vassilis Manginas after three conservative deputies left open the possibility of supporting Kostis Stephanopoulos. "Beyond this issue (of party allegiance), however, the vote should act as a vote of disapproval towards a bad government exercising bad policies," Mr. Manginas said.

    Mr. Stephanopoulos, a former New Democracy deputy who broke off ties with the party after failing twice to win its leadership, said conservative lawmakers should not stake their party roles. "They should not jeopardise their positions in the party if the issue of party allegiance is raised," he said in a statement Wednesday. The three conservative deputies are Achaia compatriots of Mr. Stephanopoulos.

    [8] Greece says trade embargo on FYROM 'successful', on anniversary of imposition

    Athens, 17/02/1995 (ANA):

    Greece said yesterday a year-old trade embargo clamped on the Former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia had "succeeded in its goal" and made Skopje's intransigence known more to the international community. Government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos made the statement, noting that United Nations efforts to resolve the on-going row between Athens and Skopje have made the international community more aware of Greece's positions.

    Athens imposed the embargo last February in a bid to pressure the new Balkan state to change its name, flag and constitution. Greece argues the former Yugoslav republic's insistence on the name "Macedonia" harbours territorial claims against the northern Greek province of the same name.

    Mr. Venizelos said the transfer of dry bulk shipments from the northern Greek port of Thessaloniki to Skopje decreased by 60 per cent in the last year. Oil shipments dropped by 90 per cent, he added.

    Later yesterday, Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias criticised Skopje President Kiro Gligorov, saying he was obstructing international efforts to resolve an on-going row between Greece and the Former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia. "The efforts of UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and UN mediator Cyrus Vance are being met with the intransigence of Mr. Gligorov," Mr. Papoulias said. "It is incorrect of the Skopje leader to stall the process of normalisation of relations with Greece," he added.

    Mr. Papoulias, speaking after a meeting with Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, dismissed the possibility of visiting the neighbouring Balkan state in the near future. "This depends on Mr. Gligorov's stance and on the condition that the Skopje leader has resolved issues and problems with Greece," he said.

    Foreign Ministry spokesman Constantine Bikas said yesterday the continuing intransigence of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) did not serve the interests of the people of that country, and called for a change of its present stance. "Skopje's continuing intransigence does not serve the interests of its people, and a change in its stance would be a manifestation of realism and would serve security and stability in the Balkans," Mr. Bikas said.

    Mr. Bikas, who was speaking on the first anniversary since Athens took retortion measures against FYROM, said "these measures are of a political nature and are a means of exercising our policy". Greece, Mr. Bikas said, was "forced to take these measures when continuing intransigence on the part of Skopje was ascertained and when the problem of the flag was added to the existing problems".

    The imposition of the retortion measures, which were within the framework of international legality, raised the Skopje issue out of the inertia it had fallen into since May 1993, Mr. Bikas explained. "Our country's positions are well known, and we creatively participate in the UN Secretary-General's proposals." "But, unfortunately," Mr. Bikas added, "Skopje's leadership continues to demonstrate intransigence, and we hope that it will realise that intransigence does not serve the interests of its people."

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