Karamanlis could back Simitis in EU

The leaders of the European Union, meeting in Brussels, bargained deep into the night over who would be the person to succeed Romano Prodi as president of the European Commission, with Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker and British Commissioner Chris Patten emerging as favorites. Greece’s Socialist former prime minister, Costas Simitis, was mentioned as an outside possibility by the Financial Times and other sources, prompting speculation that he could possibly emerge as a candidate if there was a deadlock over the more prominent names. His conservative successor and political rival over the past seven years, Costas Karamanlis, yesterday indicated that he would back Simitis if his name was put on the table. «In principle, I would say that I am positively inclined, for reasons that I think all of us understand and, if you will allow me to add, all of us sign on to,» Karamanlis told a news conference. «It has not been mentioned to me, nor has it been discussed, as far as I am aware,» he said. «If it were put forward, I would have different criteria (in the election). Because, as you know, I feel very strongly about Europe, but if the issue of a Greek candidate arose, of course I would revise many of my opinions,» Karamanlis said. The European People’s Party, to which Karamanlis’s New Democracy party belongs, has proposed Patten. Karamanlis said that seeing as the EPP held the biggest bloc in the European Parliament it should have a weightier say in choosing the next Commission president. But he did not voice an opinion on Patten’s candidacy. Regarding the other major issue of the European Union summit in Brussels, the adoption of an EU Constitution, Karamanlis said that for Greece the priority was the adoption of a Constitution and not changes to one bit or another. «Our opinions are known,» he said. «Greece’s basic demands are satisfied by the present text and I consider it much more important to have a constitutional treaty the day after tomorrow than anything else,» he added.