NEWS

PM, Merkel see eye-to-eye

Greece and Germany enjoy «excellent» relations that could soon grow stronger, particularly on defense issues, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Chancellor Angela Merkel indicated after meeting in Athens yesterday. «Our bilateral cooperation with Greece is excellent,» said Merkel who described the country’s growth rate as «enviable.» «Our cooperation can be bolstered further in the fields of technology and environment,» added the German chancellor. However, arms issues took up a large part of the discussions between the two leaders. Karamanlis raised the issue of a malfunctioning submarine that Greece has bought from Germany and told reporters he was confident the problems would be ironed out. The two leaders also seem to have found common ground on a bid to revive a deal for Greece to buy 60 Eurofighter jets. Merkel said that negotiations were under way to reach an agreement and both countries were «on the right path.» «The procedure must be open and transparent,» said Merkel. «This will take more time but we are optimistic.» The deal could be worth more than 5 billion euros and would see Greece switch from the US-built F16 fighters that it has bought in recent years. Karamanlis did not commit to any deal and said that a prerequisite for Greece agreeing would involve Greek firms being involved in the production of the aircraft. European Union issues such as Turkey and Kosovo also featured high on the agenda. After the meeting, Merkel urged Ankara to enforce the protocol it signed two years ago and open its airports and ports to Cypriot ships and airplanes. «We want the application of this protocol,» said Merkel. Both leaders agreed that it would take time for a breakthrough on the Kosovo issue. «A compromise cannot be found if all the states involved remain in the same spot,» said the German chancellor. «We should not rush the issue… Europe must play an important role,» said Karamanlis.