Stockholm was the third stop on Prime Minister Costas Simitis’ tour of EU capitals in his capacity as President of the European Council. Simitis met with Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson in view of the Thessaloniki European Council on 19-20 June.
Simitis said after the talks that they had discussed the European Council agenda. He added that the main issue on the agenda would be the presentation by Valéry Giscard d’Estaing of the draft EU Constitution currently being discussed by the European Convention.
In Thessaloniki a decision will also be reached on how talks at the Intergovernmental Conference will proceed. In view of the fact that debates will be held by the national parliaments of the Scandinavian countries prior to the Intergovernmental Conference, Persson requested a margin of about 6 months. The Presidency would prefer a shorter period as a compromise, to which Person said he did not object.
As to when the Intergovernmental Conference would wind up its sessions, Simitis said it would probably be sometime during the Irish Presidency in the first half of 2004. He noted also that the proposal of the Convention would serve as the basis for these discussions, so that consultations would not have to recommence on all issues.
The European Council will also be focusing on illegal immigration. On this issue, Simitis explained that there was already agreement on the seriousness of the problem but not regarding the size of funds to be allocated nor weighting ratios, given that “some EU Member States are close to the borders, for instance those of Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean countries, which are facing a bigger problem.”
The two leaders also discussed the issue of a common border police force, the situation in Iraq, the West Balkans and the Middle East, as well as relations with the USA.
Lastly, asked about the possibility of the European Food Safety Authority being based in Sweden, Simitis agreed with Person that the Authority should not be given to a country as “a gift” but headquartered in a location which fulfils all the prerequisites. Simitis added that Sweden fulfilled the prerequisites, while noting that he had already discussed the issue with the Finns in Helsinki “and we are trying to reach a compromise with Italy and the European Commission”.
He explained that “if all three sides agree that the Authority should be based in Helsinki, we will forward the issue to COREPER. If there is agreement there also, then we will raise the subject at the Thessaloniki European Council. If there is disagreement, we will not have enough time to bring the matter before the European Council.”