Athens stands by Ankara

Athens gave its full backing yesterday to Ankara being awarded full membership in the EU despite last-minute disagreements in Brussels that have forced an emergency meeting of foreign ministers to take place on Sunday. Turkey is due to begin membership talks on Monday but Austria yesterday failed to agree upon their framework, demanding a provision be included offering Ankara a privileged partnership rather than full membership. This idea was brushed aside by Athens yesterday as the government insisted that nothing less than full membership should be offered to Ankara when it complies with the rules Brussels has set out for it – a process which is likely to take a number of years. Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos said that Greece’s position could be summed up in a few words: «Full compliance with the criteria, full membership of the EU.» Athens and Nicosia appear to have achieved the aims that they wanted in an earlier counter-declaration to Turkey’s non-recognition of Cyprus. The document requires Ankara to recognize Nicosia during membership talks rather than when it is ready to join the Union. The sanguine attitude of the government was not reflected by opposition parties in what turned out to be a heated meeting of the National Foreign Policy Council yesterday. The council, made up of experts, academics and politicians from the main parties, does not convene very often and was dominated by the issue of Turkey during yesterday’s session. Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis, who chaired the meeting, admitted that there had been «a great degree of consensus on the strategic aims of foreign policy» but there were «differences, disagreements and reservations as to the tactical handling» of certain matters. «Maybe today for the first time some loud voices were heard which do not fit in with the spirit in which the council’s meetings are usually carried out,» said Molyviatis. The government came under fire from PASOK for its handling of foreign policy. «We made it clear that we do not consent to a policy that entails surrendering arms, lowering the goals of the country and Hellenism and missing opportunities,» said PASOK MP and foreign policy spokesman Christos Papoutsis.