NEWS

Sarkozy hails era of new alliance

French President Nicolas Sarkozy heralded the start of a «new alliance» between Greece and France as he became the first foreigner in this century to address the Greek Parliament during a visit to Athens yesterday. Sarkozy praised Greece and its history, evoking Athens’s Golden Age, while also referring to his own Greek roots. Sarkozy’s maternal grandfather was a Jew from Thessaloniki. In a speech lasting just under half an hour, Sarkozy drew the strongest applause when he suggested that France would stand firmly by Greece’s side over its dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). «I want you to know that we chose Greece and we will not change our stance,» the French president said. Sarkozy supported Greece at the NATO summit in Bucharest when it moved to block FYROM’s bid to join the alliance. He said yesterday that FYROM should join NATO and the European Union «in good time.» «I want to say, though, that this should not happen before the name dispute is resolved,» he told MPs. Referring to an old slogan about Greece’s close ties with France in the past «Greece-France-alliance,» Sarkozy said that the message should now be «Greece-France-new alliance.» Sarkozy also revived his idea of the formation of a Mediterranean Union before speaking about Cyprus, another foreign policy issue close to Greek hearts, and called for «the walls in Nicosia to come down.» The French president called for Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot leaders to make the most of an opportunity to find lasting peace on the island. Sarkozy went on to suggest that European countries should look to form a defense policy that is independent of NATO. «We cannot be unable to secure our own defense,» he said. «This would not be an issue of competition with NATO. We need both NATO and European defense.» Sarkozy later held talks with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis which focused on the possibility of Greece buying armaments from France, as well as the plans that Paris has when it takes over the EU presidency next month. Sarkozy suggested that a European coast guard should be formed, as Greece could not be »left on its own» to combat illegal immigration.