NEWS

PM support for Balkans

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday expressed «cautious optimism» regarding efforts to determine a final status for Kosovo and stressed Athens’s support for all Balkan countries bidding to join the European Union. «We are convinced that there are still possibilities for a consensus on Kosovo to be reached between the two sides and with the new government that is to take power in Serbia,» Karamanlis told a summit of Balkan leaders in the Croatian capital of Zagreb. Karamanlis made his statements shortly after an announcement in Belgrade that the parties of Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and President Boris Tadic had agreed to form a coalition government. Karamanlis spoke with both men on Thursday night at the behest of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Karamanlis stressed that Kosovo’s Serbs and ethnic Albanians should be granted enough time for assimilation into a new state of affairs and that there should be no «arrogant victors and humiliated losers» in the region. The Greek premier also stressed the importance of boosting regional cooperation between Balkan states, echoing Merkel, who noted that Southeast Europe was «at a crossroads» in its development. Greece’s proposal for the creation of a «Center for Regional Development» in Thessaloniki was reportedly well-received at the summit. Speaking after the summit, after participants signed an agreement to boost good neighborly relations, stability and prosperity in the region, Karamanlis issued messages to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Turkey. Karamanlis called on FYROM to reassess its stance regarding its official name, insisting that Greece had shown goodwill and that it was now Skopje’s turn. Responding to reporters’ questions about Turkey, Karamanlis said that Greece backed Ankara’s EU bid but stressed that being a «functional democracy» was a prerequisite to joining the bloc, an apparent reference to the current clash between Turkey’s Islamist-rooted government and the country’s secular military establishment.