PM aims at consensus on Cyprus, EU

Prime Minister Costas Simitis will meet opposition leaders today to brief them on recent developments on the Cyprus issue and the formation of the European rapid reaction force and to enlist their support for the government’s positions. Simitis will meet opposition leader Costas Karamanlis of the conservative New Democracy party at 10.30 a.m., Aleka Papariga, secretary-general of the Communist party, at 11.15 a.m. and Nikos Constantopoulos of the Left Coalition at noon. Following an Inner Cabinet meeting on Thursday, Simitis had said that developments on both issues had reached a «critical stage» and that a consensus across the political spectrum was necessary in order to present a united front and overcome obstacles. Karamanlis, like the other leaders, agreed to be briefed but criticized Simitis as being «the one who, as a rule, opposes national consensus.» New Democracy has often criticized Simitis for failing to create the National Foreign Policy Council, modeled on Cyprus’s institution and mandated by the last constitutional revision, or, at least, to agree to a meeting of the party leaders and the President of the Republic. Simitis has opposed such meetings as ineffective and as occasions for each party leader to present his or her own version of the proceedings to the media. Greece appears isolated among its European Union partners on the issue of the European army. No one has supported its contention that non-EU member Turkey is given unacceptably preferential treatment, including an effective veto on operations close to areas deemed of «strategic interest» to Turkey. Simitis is afraid that Greece’s isolation, which could lead it to veto the force’s formation, might have a negative impact on Cyprus’s accession to the EU. If worst comes to worst, Greece is prepared to derail the whole EU enlargement process, but any double veto would be bound to have negative political repercussions. In Cyprus, President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash met yesterday and repeated their differing positions on a possible reunion of the island.

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