Haggling over EU army

Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Foreign Minister George Papandreou face tough negotiations with other European Union leaders over the role of the planned European defense force at the EU summit being held today and tomorrow at the Brussels suburb of Laeken. Of particular concern to Greece is an agreement reached with fellow NATO ally and non-EU member Turkey earlier this month that would give Turkey a say in the use of the force in areas it deems strategic for its interests, which include the Aegean Sea and Cyprus. The deal, brokered by the United States and the United Kingdom, was hailed by other EU and NATO members as a way of resolving the issue of cooperation between the two overlapping organizations and avoiding a threatened Turkey veto on the use of NATO resources. An absence of assured NATO support would mean a sharp increase in the cost to the EU of missions in and around Europe once the 60,000-strong Euroforce becomes fully operational in 2003. EU foreign and security policy chief Javier Solana said yesterday that, come what may, the summit would officially decide on the launching of the Euroforce. I hope very much (the declaration) will be accompanied by agreement…on permanent relations between the European Union and NATO, Solana told the Reuters news agency. Solana, Simitis, Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt and NATO Secretary-General George Robertson discussed the issue over dinner last night, but no information was forthcoming. In Athens, Foreign Minister George Papandreou came under pressure in Parliament to promise to veto the text on the Euroforce if Greece’s rights were not acknowledged. Thirty deputies from the ruling Socialist party, most of them habitual critics of what they see as Simitis’s insufficiently patriotic foreign policy, circulated a text that said they would fully support the government’s use of the veto. Papandreou refused to provide such an assurance. If we are not satisfied, we will ask that negotiations continue, he told MPs. Deputy government spokesman Telemachos Hytiris said that Greece wanted the text amended and corrected before a deal could be reached. In Brussels, opposition leader Costas Karamanlis, attending a meeting of the European People’s Party, of which his party, New Democracy, is a member, said Greece could not accept the deal as it stood because it hurt Greek interests and negates one of the main reasons we entered the EU: to ensure national security.

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