Athens happy with EU charter

Greece’s two main political parties, which share close to 90 percent of the national vote, welcomed the EU leaders’ agreement on a charter, suggesting that it will be ratified easily in Greece. But the two small left-wing parties expressed strong opposition to it, suggesting that if there is a referendum their clear-cut rejection could marshall a larger number of votes than they represent. «Today is a great day for Europe,» Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said after the marathon deliberations late on Friday night In Brussels. «It is a very significant step forward,» he added. «With this new treaty the European Union develops institutionally… it draws closer to European citizens… it improves its democratic functions… it strengthens the potential for further economic development while strengthening its social face, it enhances its presence and role in the world, to the benefit of international peace and stability.» The main opposition PASOK party said the charter «is a positive step toward the deepening and completion of the European Union.» In a statement, it noted the contribution the former PASOK government and then-Foreign Minister George Papandreou had made to the text regarding Greece’s islands, tourism, mutual military support and a «social Europe.» «That is why we are concerned by certain changes in the final text regarding critical issues for our country,» it added. The anti-EU Communist Party saw the treaty as «a noose around the necks of the European people» and the «supreme institutional strengthening of the dictatorship of the European plutocracy.» The small Synaspismos Left Coalition said it «rejects the draft for a European Constitution because it institutionalizes the principles of neo-liberalism» and called for a referendum on the issue.