NEWS

EU leaders press Athens on Euroforce

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency, met with his Greek counterpart, Costas Simitis, yesterday to help prepare for the EU summit in Seville at the end of next week. High on the agenda of their talks was the issue of the EU’s nascent defense force and Greece’s objections to Turkey, which is not a member of the EU, having a say in the force’s operations. Other issues discussed were those of immigration, asylum, enlargement and the functioning of the EU itself. «Immigration policy, asylum policy and refugees constitute a single package of the common immigration and asylum policy. At this moment, these policies are of great importance for all our countries,» Aznar told a joint news conference. On the EU rapid reaction force, Simitis said, «Discussions are being held, opinions are being exchanged for us to see how we can find a mutually acceptable solution. I hope that today’s meeting contributed to this.» However, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer stressed in a news conference yesterday that this issue would close at the Seville summit. «Both I and President Chirac have communicated with Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, who told us that he will present his proposals at the Seville summit,» Schroeder said. Aznar noted that some progress had been made. «Some positive elements of progress emerged in the past few days and we hope that in the next days we will be able to reach final approval. This is the time of the World Cup soccer finals, let’s score a goal. I cannot tell you that I am optimistic, nor that I am pessimistic. The devil is always in the details, the little points, and when we go into those little points we must take care that there is no obstacle at the last moment,» he said. «It is very important for us to reach a positive and satisfactory solution to the issue for the construction of the European Security and Defense Policy. That is why it is very important for us to take into consideration everyone’s sensitivities – those of our Greek friends in this case,» Aznar said.