EU force on the table

Today’s meeting of the General Affairs Council in Brussels kicks off a week of intense diplomatic activity culminating in the summit of EU leaders at the end of the week at nearby Laeken. Among the issues to be tackled by the 15 foreign ministers today is the compromise aimed at overcoming Ankara’s objections to the EU’s nascent defense force using NATO resources for its operations. Turkey, however, said yesterday that the issue had been settled and Greece should not block the deal. Athens has indicated that it could veto any decision on the force if it sees that Turkey, which is not a member of the EU, is awarded equal participation in the force’s decision-making and if Greece’s sovereign rights are infringed upon. Under a deal made by Ankara, Washington and London, the force will not deal with problems between an EU member and a county that is not in the EU but is in NATO (precisely the relationship between Greece and Turkey) and that when the security interests of the second country are involved, negotiations will be held with it. Last Thursday, Foreign Minister George Papandreou said the document needs to be worked upon by military and legal officials to secure Greece’s rights. He will present Athens’s proposals to the General Affairs Council today. He noted that it was not necessary for the issue to be finalized today nor at the Laeken summit. Yesterday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem said that his country considered the issue resolved and he urged Greece to accept the deal for the sake of relations between NATO and the EU. Greece would commit a mistake if it blocked the deal, Cem said in an interview with CNN-Turk television, The Associated Press reported. Cem said that the agreement was drawn up by Turkey, the USA and Britain and that it fully guaranteed Turkey’s security. But he added that Ankara’s demand to play a role in the European force’s operations where NATO resources are not used was not met. Addressing the Turkish National Assembly, Cem said that of the three aspects of the agreement for the EU force, his country got what we wanted and met needs for the first two which concern cooperation between NATO and the EU, and military and technical issues. On the third issue, for the EU force not to use NATO assets, he stated: I cannot say that we got what we wanted. -Thessaloniki Chamber of Industry and Commerce elects a new board.

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