NEWS

A friend from Paris at a crucial juncture

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who arrives in Athens tomorrow for an official visit, has reaffirmed his country’s solidarity with Greece in its dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). This assurance is particularly important as France prepares to assume the rotating EU presidency for the second half of this year, when FYROM’s accession application will be examined. In this interview with Kathimerini, Sarkozy praises Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, noting their convergence of views on many issues, including reforms. Sarkozy’s visit comes at an auspicious time for bilateral relations. Apart from the two countries’ traditional bonds of friendship, France’s strong support at the recent NATO summit averted Greece’s isolation in the alliance and was warmly received by the Greek public. As his first year in office at the Elysee Palace draws to a close, this grandson of a Greek from Thessaloniki emphasizes that he is looking forward to close cooperation with Greece in promoting his vision of a Mediterranean Union in which Greece intends to play a major role. Sarkozy also points out that Greece’s voice is being carefully listened to in the Balkans; he speaks in favor of Serbia joining the EU and said Dimitris Christofias’s election to the presidency of Cyprus offers the island new hopes of a «reunification on equal terms.» On the environment, he says Europe has a duty to lead the struggle against global warming. With regard to the Common Agricultural Policy, which is of immediate concern to Greece, Sarkozy calls for modernization of farming «without sacrificing the farmer and production.» Sarkozy is to meet with President Karolos Papoulias, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and other party leaders and will be the first foreign leader to speak in Greece’s Parliament in the 21st century.