NEWS

Single EU voice sought

A day after five EU countries and three future members stunned the rest of the Union by publishing a letter pledging support for the United States, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said yesterday that this undermined the Union’s efforts to speak with a single voice. His government spokesman said the other nine EU countries which had not been consulted by the «eight» agreed with Greece that the letter had created a «negative» impression of the Union. «The letter is an initiative which presents a problem, because it was carried out without the necessary coordination,» said Simitis, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency. «But it is also the expression of an opinion, which member states have a right to.» Simitis instructed the director of his diplomatic office to communicate with the latter’s counterparts in the 15 EU states to express the presidency’s disagreement with the action by EU members Britain, Spain, Italy, Denmark and Portugal and candidate countries Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. The nine EU countries who did not sign the letter said that they agreed with Greece’s position, government spokesman Christos Protopappas said. The five who signed said that the pledge of support for the United States did not contradict a position agreed on by EU foreign ministers on Monday calling for UN arms inspectors to have more time to look for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. «We are not going to call a summit because of the letter. If we need to call a summit it will be because crucial decisions on developments will have to be taken.» Simitis said. But German government spokesman Thomas Steg said Athens had made such a proposal for mid-February. Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder would «naturally take part in such a summit,» Steg said, according to The Associated Press. Foreign Minister George Papandreou has proposed a meeting of 28 foreign ministers from EU and Middle East countries. Simitis said the presidency had an obligation to work toward a single EU voice. «We have agreed that we must try to have a common foreign policy,» he said. «That is why it is good for partners to communicate with each other. That is why it is good for us to try to solve differences. And, in this case, the path that was followed showed that there is a lack of coordination, there was no communication. This does not help Europe to have a strong voice in the world.»