EU summit result judged satisfactory

If not overwhelmed, Greek public opinion was on the whole satisfied with the government’s handling of last week’s European Union summit, which gave Turkey an October 3 date for the start of accession talks. At the same time, according to a new nationwide poll made public yesterday, most Greeks consider Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis better qualified to handle foreign policy issues than opposition leader George Papandreou, while if elections were to be held now, ruling New Democracy would beat PASOK by a 6.5 percent margin. In the March 2004 vote that brought ND to power, the conservatives outstripped the Socialists by 4.5 percent. The phone survey by RASS pollsters, carried out on December 19-21 – two days after the Brussels EU summit – asked a sample of 1,408 Greeks how they rated the government’s handling of the summit, which wrung out of Turkey a commitment to sign a customs deal with Cyprus (and another nine new EU members) before October 3. Initially, Athens and Nicosia had wanted Ankara to offer Cyprus outright recognition, although the final decision is seen as a roundabout gesture toward some form of recognition. Some 22.7 percent said the matter had been successfully handled, and 39 percent said Athens had been more or less successful. Some 20.2 percent said Greece’s efforts had been more or less unsuccessful, and 12.8 percent rated them as completely unsuccessful. Asked to qualify their position, 42.7 percent said the government had done the best it could in the circumstances. Some 37.7 percent said Athens had not protected Greek and Cypriot interests to the extent it could have, and only 15.1 percent aired the view that Greece had effectively safeguarded these interests. Some 68 percent of respondents expressed full or partial backing for Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos’s conduct at the summit. Papadopoulos refrained from vetoing Turkey’s accession talks, but said he would do so unless the customs deal was signed by October 3. And another 68 percent said the Brussels summit had been of great or considerable interest to them.