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Athens News Agency Bulletin, February 18, 1995

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

E-Mail Address:


  • [1] Cyprus EU talks will go ahead, whatever the fate of Turkey's customs union, Venizelos says

  • [2] Human rights

  • [3] GSEE

  • [4] Turkish reactions

  • [5] Premier: no compromise, no reshuffle

  • [6] Arsenis: Greece ready to assist Romania, other former eastern-bloc nations move towards Europe

  • [7] UN adopts a wait-and-see attitude on Skopje dispute, sources say

  • [1] Cyprus EU talks will go ahead, whatever the fate of Turkey's customs union, Venizelos says

    Athens, 18/02/95 (ANA):

    While consultations between the French European Union Presidency and Athens to overcome Greek reservations regarding Turkey's proposed customs union with the Community continued yesterday, Greek government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said French attempts to link the fate of Cyprus' European Union membership talks with the deal were "inconceivable".

    Mr. Venizelos said that Cyprus' accession was a given, adopted in conclusions at the Copenhagen, Corfu, and Essen summits, and that Turkey's customs union with the EU was an issue that would be decided by the General Affairs Council and ratified by the European Parliament.

    "Greece appreciates the French Presidency's efforts, but I wonder why Greek positions are not being readily accepted when many have verbally acknowledged that there is a clear political commitment on a date for Cyprus' entry negotiations. It is good to have this in writing," he said.

    Mr. Venizelos' criticism was voiced in response to warnings by French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe that the EU would suspend membership talks with Cyprus if Greece continued to block an EU-Turkey customs union pact.

    Athens has objected to a provisional customs union deal that could open the way for closer trade relations between the EU and Turkey, saying it disagreed with four points of the plan. First on the list is what Greece calls an unspecified date on when the EU will begin membership talks with Cyprus.

    [2] Human rights

    Athens, 18/02/95 (ANA):

    Mr. Venizelos said he was satisfied with a European Parliament (EP) resolution Thursday describing Turkey's human rights record as "too grave to allow for the formation of the proposed customs union at present".

    "The position expressed by the overwhelming majority of the European Parliament is in effect more advanced than that of the Greek side," he said. He added that Greece was not transferring any Greek-Turkish dispute to Community organs, as its positions are formulated on the basis of the EU's institutional framework for the protection of human rights and the consolidation of peace and stability in the region.

    A European Commission spokesman in Brussels yesterday said, despite the EP resolution, the Commission hoped an agreement on lifting Greek reservations would be reached by March 6, date on which the EU-Turkey Association Council is due to meet, concurrently with the Foreign Ministers Council.

    He said the issue of Turkey's customs union was a "priority" for the Community. He provided assurances that the Commission and the French presidency considered the issue of human rights as very significant and would raise it during the Foreign Ministers Council. He added that External Affairs Commissioner Hans van den Broek would brief the Council in connection with the issue.

    French European Affairs Minister Alain Lamassoure, nevertheless, yesterday tried to play down the significance of the EP resolution, saying the conditions it set therein were "certainly strict but not excessive... on this point we consider that Parliament's positions are complementary to ours".

    The European Parliament is the only directly-elected body in the European Union and has the power to block the customs union.

    Sources in Brussels said yesterday that Belgium has asked that the issue of human rights in Turkey be included in the agenda of the meeting between the troika of EU Foreign Ministries Political Directors and Turkey on February 28. The sources said that the Belgian side considered proposed amendments in the Turkish constitution as a big step forward, but not sufficient to provide guarantees for a real improvement in the human rights situation in the country, and, therefore, of its image abroad.

    Meanwhile, the EU finance and economy ministers council (ECOFIN) is meeting in Brussels Monday to consider the issue of granting macroeconomic aid to Turkey.

    [3] GSEE

    Athens, 18/02/95 (ANA):

    In a letter to the ministers of national economy, industry and foreign affairs, the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) drew attention to the serious consequences which the proposed customs union of Turkey with the EU would have on the Greek textile industry.

    The issue is one of the four points Greece has expressed reservation on in the ad referendum agreement decided in Brussels.

    GSEE has asked the government to reintroduce the issue of EU support for a restructuring and qualitative upgrading of the Greek textile industry.

    [4] Turkish reactions

    Athens, 18/02/95 (ANA):

    Turkish co-chairman of the Joint Turkey- EP Parliamentary Committee Tunc Bilget yesterday accused the European Parliament of "religious fanaticism and hostility towards Turkey" in its decision to reject the proposed customs union.

    "The customs union is not only to the interest of Turkey, but also to that of European countries," he said.

    [5] Premier: no compromise, no reshuffle

    Athens, 18/02/95 (ANA):

    Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou has denied that PASOK had concluded a "historical compromise" or made "a turn to the center-right" by selecting veteran politician Kostis Stephanopoulos as the ruling party's presidential candidate.

    Mr. Papandreou was replying to a question made by an Antenna television reporter.

    Asked whether a "sweeping or very light government reshuffle" should be expected, the premier tersely replied: "None".

    [6] Arsenis: Greece ready to assist Romania, other former eastern-bloc nations move towards Europe

    Bucharest, 18/02/95 (ANA - G. Zarkaradis):

    Visiting Greek National Defence Minister Gerasimos Arsenis yesterday told the Romanian Parliament that Greece would do what it could to assist former Eastern-bloc states becoming part of the European entity.

    Mr. Arsenis underlined the need to accelerate economic reforms in the former socialist countries at the same time advising them to place more trust in their own forces. He assured the Romanian deputies that Greece would support Romania's, as well as other Balkan countries', accession to NATO, reiterating that "Nato's expansion towards Eastern Europe will follow a process which will not oppose Russian interests".

    Mr. Arsenis is in Bucharest on a three-day official visit, which has included the signing of a defence co-operation agreement with Romania.

    The Balkans, Mr. Arsenis told members of the Romanian Parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, "can become an area of prosperity and stability if the political leaderships follow the correct policy of bilateral and multilateral co-operation" . "The Bosnian issue is an exception and not the rule in the Balkans," he said.

    Mr. Arsenis' counterpart Gheorghe Tinca yesterday said Greece and Romania had agreed on ways to deal with problems in the region and security in Europe.

    [7] UN adopts a wait-and-see attitude on Skopje dispute, sources say

    United Nations, 18/02/95 (ANA - M. Georgiadou):

    UN sources believe Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali's special mediator on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Cyrus Vance is showing "patience and tolerance" while Washington, through its own representative Matthew Nimetz, does not seem prepared to exert any more pressure on FYROM, at least for the time being. In addition, diplomatic sources refer to the "extremely fluid situation prevailing in domestic political affairs in Skopje" and particularly to problems facing the Gligorov administration in relation to the Albanian-speaking community and Albanian-speaking members of Parliament.

    However, other diplomatic sources stress that the issue of the Albanian-speaking university operating in Tetovo "has been solved" and express the view that Gligorov's "hesitation" over the resumption of negotiations to resolve his country's differences with Greece might be due to reasons concerning the wider Balkan region.

    They assume Gligorov might be waiting to see first what the outcome of the international contact group's new effort will be, and if Serb President Slobodan Milosevic will accept the five powers' new offer and decide to recognise Bosnia and Croatia in ex change for the lifting of the economic embargo imposed by the UN.

    However, the sources believe "the position of expectation and patience" shown to Gligorov by the UN and the US will not last for very long, foreseeing some possible move by the US or more probably by the UN likely to take place in early March and naturally in the event FYROM's intransigence and negative attitude continues.

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