All set for Salonica

PM Costas Simitis wraps up his tour of European capitals today with a meeting in Rome with his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi and will leave for Thessaloniki tomorrow to prepare for the summit of 25 leaders of members and acceding countries that begins on Thursday. The European Council meeting, at the Porto Carras luxury hotel complex near Neos Marmaras on the Halkidiki peninsula about 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Thessaloniki, is one of the most crucial in recent years, dealing with issues such as the future shape of the union, its relationship with the United States, and how it will manage migration to the benefit of a swiftly aging continent. Another priority of Greece’s six-month presidency is the effort to bring the countries of the western Balkans closer to the EU. The EU leaders will meet on Saturday with their counterparts from Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia and Montenegro. EU foreign ministers decided at a meeting in Luxembourg yesterday to provide an extra 200 million euros in aid into the region, to be spread over three years. But they demanded that the countries themselves show real commitment to reform. Greece had proposed aid of 300 million euros a year for the next three years, but this was cut down to a total of 200 million for the three years. Some 19,000 police and security force members will be providing security, creating a cordon on land, sea and air around the Porto Carras complex. The security effort will be under the command of Police Chief Lt. Gen. Fotis Nasiakos. At the start of its meeting on Thursday, the European Council will deal with migration issues (EU funding for infrastructure projects, border protection, problems of illegal migration, and so on), according to the EU presidency. At dinner, the EU leaders will discuss the Middle East, Iraq, and the war against weapons of mass destruction and international terrorism. On Friday, Valery Giscard d’Estaing will present the European Convention’s proposals for a new Constitution, which will be followed by roundtable discussions on the issue. After this, Simitis will announce the conclusions of the Greek presidency. At lunch on Friday, the leaders will discuss the agenda of the EU-US summit that Simitis is to attend on June 25 in Washington, DC. That night, the presidency will meet with the leaders of Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey, before President Costis Stephanopoulos hosts dinner.

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