Sydney ties tightened

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday stressed the importance of support from the Greeks of the diaspora for issues of national importance after a senior Australian politician backed efforts to retrieve the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum. «The contribution of eminent Australian personalities in defending our national concerns is another example of your influence and efforts,» Karamanlis told representatives of the Greek community in Sydney after talks with Morris Iemma, the premier of New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state. «I pledge my government’s support and the efforts of all Australians… to repatriate those unique treasures,» Iemma told Karamanlis. For his part, Karamanlis pledged to bring before Greece’s Parliament a draft bill whose approval would allow expatriate Greeks to vote from Australia. Karamanlis stressed however that the new law would not apply in time for forthcoming general elections. The Greek premier also referred to a much-delayed bilateral pension agreement which he and Australian PM John Howard are to sign today. The agreement allows Greek Australians returning to their homeland to claim an Australian pension. «Eventually the state will reward the efforts and sacrifices of thousands of our countrymen during their working lives in Australia,» Karamanlis said. The Greek premier also took the opportunity to reiterate Athens’s stance on Turkey and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Regarding Turkey, Karamanlis said that Greece supports its bid to join the European Union, as long as it fulfills the necessary prerequisites. And regarding FYROM, the PM said that Athens was still keen to find a mutually acceptable solution regarding an official name for FYROM but stressed that Skopje «must abandon its intransigent stance.» In a related development, a European Parliament report has expressed its disapproval of the failure by Greece and FYROM to reach an agreement on the latter’s name. The report, which has been discussed by the Parliament’s foreign affairs committee but has yet to be approved, remarked that it is the right of every state «to choose its name freely.» It also noted that there are other countries in Europe with the same names as sections of land in neighboring countries, without giving details.