A proposal to create a European coast guard, put forward by Greece, was warmly welcomed at a meeting of the EU Council of Justice and Interior Ministers in Luxembourg yesterday. The idea had first been suggested by Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos at a similar EU meeting last month but was formally submitted by Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis yesterday. The council said the idea was realistic and could be put into operation straight away, although no dates were given. Ministers also said the creation of an EU coast guard could help combat illegal immigration in the Mediterranean. The proposal envisages a trial phase, with interested member states at first only contributing resources to sea rescue operations, mainly in the Mediterranean. Thousand of illegal immigrants attempt to reach Greece by boat each year. If successful, the body may take on a more permanent nature and cooperate with non-EU member states, particularly in the Mediterranean. The coast guard will be funded by the participating countries and EU subsidies.