NEWS

Greek presidency aims

Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday set out Greece’s priorities as president of the European Union when it takes over from Denmark on January 1, listing them as enlargement, economic strategy, migration, Europe’s new structures and future and its foreign policy. Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis are to present the Greek presidency’s priorities in Brussels today. «The message we are sending the European people is: ‘This is our Europe. We are sharing the future in a community of principles,’» Simitis said after a Cabinet meeting. «Regarding enlargement, we want to stick to the timetable which was agreed on in Copenhagen: to prepare the accession process, so that on April 16, here in Athens, the treaties, the agreements for the accession of 10 new EU member states will be signed,» he said. «At the same time, we want to move ahead with the pre-accession strategy for Bulgaria and Romania so that they can become members within the regular timetable and to make progress with a new partnership with Turkey.» The second target is to meet the aims set out in Lisbon in 2000 on economic competitiveness, employment, social cohesion and sustainable development. «Our third priority is the control of migration and dealing with illegal immigration,» Simitis said. «Progress has been made, but we want to complete this. This concerns the security of every citizen, both in our country and the European Union as a whole,» he added. On Europe’s future, Simitis said, «We want to ensure progress in this discussion so that the new Europe can have new and effective policies, so that it can have a more democratic and social face and be more powerful internationally.» The fifth priority was «to strengthen the common foreign policy and defense, so that the European Union can play an even more important role on the international scene. It is lagging and we know it,» Simitis said. «We will pay special attention to cooperation and stability in the Balkans, and we will support the international coalition against terrorism,» he said. «Overall, I want to stress that we want to continue the work that other EU presidencies began, but we also want to bring forward new ideas, to create new directions,» Simitis said. «We want a Europe that is more just and more secure, with a stronger economy… Above all, it must be closer to the citizen.»