Athens in corner over EU force

Greece came under renewed pressure from its partners in the European Union yesterday to acquiesce in a deal allowing Turkey to have a say in the EU’s nascent military force in exchange for allowing the force to use NATO facilities. «Fourteen (of the 15) EU member states encouraged Greece to move and to help approve a decision by the time of the European Council meeting in Seville (in mid-June),» Spanish Defense Minister Federico Trillo told a news conference. «We hope very much to get this agreement to be able to carry out certain missions,» Trillo said, speaking after talks between EU foreign and defense ministers in Brussels. Spain holds the EU’s rotating presidency. Greece also finds itself alone against its 14 partners on another related issue, the creation of a standing committee to study the EU’s military needs. A British plan proposes that all 15 member states as well as the countries that are members of NATO or allied with it should be on the committee. This means everyone but Cyprus and Malta. With the exception of Greece, all countries at yesterday’s meeting of foreign and defense ministers agreed to this. Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou pressed for Cyprus and Malta to be included but his colleagues would not accept this. Greece does not want Turkey, which is a member of NATO but not of the EU, to have a say in operations conducted by the EU’s proposed 60,000-member rapid reaction force, which is to be used for humanitarian and peacekeeping missions. Turkey, on the other hand, will not allow the use of NATO materiel and facilities unless it is given a say in areas that it considers important, such as the Aegean, Cyprus and the eastern Mediterranean – all regions that Greece considers vital to its security. (Kathimerini, Reuters)

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