Greek Foreign Minister attends G8 Paris meeting on global affairs
ATHENS – GreekNews
A meeting of the G8, the group of the world’s eight most wealthy nations, foreign ministers opened in Paris on Friday, with discussion focusing on Iraq, the Middle East and Afghanistan. Greece’s Foreign Minister George Papandreou, who is the current president of the EU General Affairs Council, represented the European Union.
Speaking to Greek reporters on the sidelines of the meeting, he said, “The G8 foreign ministers are evaluating global developments and crisis areas. We especially focused on regions such as Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, the Middle East and Iraq. On the occasion of yesterday’s discussion on narcotics, we discussed Colombia. We also looked into Congo, where a serious humanitarian situation prevails and could possibly extend into a greater dimension.”
According to the Greek foreign minister, all participants hailed the United Nations Security Council resolution to lift sanctions on Iraq, a move that creates a fresh unity among the international community.
“Let us hope that such unity would prove real and that the UN’s role would again be weighty, not only with regard to Iraq but also on an international level,” Papandreou added.
In addition, he noted that “as the European Union, we hailed the [UN] resolution, which now allows the EU to take initiatives not only in the humanitarian area, but also in the areas of reconstruction, supporting democratization and creating a better future for the Iraqi people.”
Asked to comment on U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell’s visit to Paris and whether this signaled a normalization of relations between the U.S., Europe and France, Papandreou said that irrespective of recent disagreements on Iraq, there is now the will to move forward in a way that would safeguard the UN’s role, as well as peace and stability in the wider region.
IN THE BALKANS
Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou on Saturday urged Balkan states hoping to join the European Union to maintain the momentum of reform to dispel EU doubts about the pace of enlargement.
Papandreou told a meeting of political and business leaders from the Balkans that Greece, the current EU president, wanted the bloc to give Balkan nations the hope of joining.
But he said that while all current EU members agreed on the benefits of enlargement, some had doubts as to how fast the union could move from one wave of expansion to the next.
“We need to deal with an important aspect of enlargement, that is called ‘enlargement fatigue’,” Papandreou said at the World Economic Forum conference on southeast Europe.
“Some EU member states have been saying: perhaps we should slow the process down; perhaps the countries are not ready; perhaps we need to see more progress, results.”
The European Union is set to expand from 15 nations to 25 next year by taking in mostly former Soviet bloc nations from eastern Europe. Bulgaria and Romania are due to be next in 2007. Thus far there is no clear timeline for other prospective states, which include all of former Yugoslavia except for Slovenia, already one of the ten on course for 2004 entry. Greece has made the Balkans a priority of its six-month EU presidency, which will end in June.
It has proposed aid of 300 million euros ($353.5 million) a year in 2004-2006 for five western Balkan nations — Serbia and Montenegro, Bosnia, Macedonia, Croatia and Albania. The plan, along with European Commission proposals for new aid for the region, will be discussed at a June 21 summit of EU leaders, future entrants and Balkan nations in Thessaloniki.
“We’d like to have a double message coming out of Thessaloniki…a very strong commitment from the western Balkans that there is momentum, there’s change, there’s commitment to reforms,” Papandreou said.
“Secondly, a message from the EU that with this momentum we are ready to help…step up this process and offer the prospect of membership.”
He said there has been much progress in the region but Balkan states had to continue internal reforms, fight organized crime and remove barriers to trade and investment.