Monday, January 22, 2007

National Council on Foreign Policy discusses Balkans

Balkan developments, especially Kosovo, dominated Thursday's meeting of the National Council on Foreign Policy, chaired by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and attended by representatives of the political parties in Parliament, except the Communist Party of Greece (KKE).

Leaving the meeting, Bakoyannis said it had taken place in a good climate and thanked all the participants for their constructive imput.

She noted that the status of Kosovo would be a central issue on the agenda of the next EU General Affairs Council and an upcoming NATO ministers' meeting.

Bakoyannis said the discussion had also covered the other problems of the region, since the entire region was interlinked in one way or the other and, of course, was affected by the decisions that were taken.

These included Bulgaria and Romania joining the EU and upcoming elections in Serbia.

During the meeting, the minister also briefed Council members on the results of a recent trip to Balkan countries by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, as well as the conclusions of the last European Council meeting concerning Turkey's EU accession course.

In addition to the political parties, the meeting was also attended by senior foreign ministry officials and diplomats.


On his part, former foreign minister Theodoros Pangalos, who represented main opposition PASOK, initially referred to a very "beneficial meeting," before underlining support for Athens' core position of backing Turkey's European prospects in tandem with the fulfillment of the EU candidate country's obligations to the Union.

"...Obligations that Ankara has assumed quite a long time before the Annan plan (for Cyprus)," he added.

Additionally, Pangalos said the Cyprus issue must not be bundled together with Turkey's other criteria for accession, thus preventing the long-standing issue from serving as a "counter-weight" in Ankara's diplomatic arsenal. He also said issues involving respect of human rights in the neighboring country must be resolved.

In terms of Kosovo, Pangalos said the issue affects the entire region, stressing that a "demand for sacrifices and concessions cannot be exerted from just the Serbs without some form of significant trade."

Finally, Pangalos reminded that the FYROM "name issue" must be solved within the framework of the 1995 interim agreement between Athens and Skopje.

Synaspismos rep

Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) representative Panos Trigazis, meanwhile, referred to the "assumption of initiatives" by the Greek side in the Balkans, following the conclusion of the meeting.

In touching on the thorny Kosovo matter, he was clear:

"We are concerned that a possible unilateral independence of the region (Kosovo) will cause a chain reaction of instability in the western Balkans and a negative precedent for other international problems. A solution must be mutually acceptable and based on international law. We are against new fragmentations in the Balkans," he said.

Regarding the FYROM "name issue", Trigazis called for a continuation of talks under UN auspices, while he echoed standing Greek policy of backing Turkey's course towards the EU as long as the former meets its obligations in full.

"It should also not escape us that efforts for a peaceful resolution in the triangle 'Turkey-Greece-Cyprus' can be negatively affected by developments in the Middle East, where the Bush administration continues to insist on its catastrophic decision to continue the war in Iraq with the dispatch of more troops," he concluded.

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