Copenhagen was the fourth stop on Prime Minister Costas Simitis’ tour of EU capitals in his capacity as President of the European Council. Following talks with his Danish counterpart, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Simitis reiterated that the Thessaloniki European Council would focus on two main issues.
The first concerns the new European Constitution and specifically, procedural matters relating to the Intergovernmental Conference. In particular, when the IGC sessions will begin and end, what importance will be attached to the proposals of the Convention on the Future of Europe, and lastly the authorisation to be given to the Working Group which will be discussing the work of the Convention.
Simitis said also that it was politically necessary for European citizens to be familiar with the draft Constitution before the next European elections (in June 2004) so that they can decide who to vote for.
The second major item on the Thessaloniki agenda is illegal migration. According to Simitis, a number of decisions must be taken by the Council, in order for there to be a common policy on migration covering a wide spectrum of issues, including funding, the distribution of the financial burden which will be shouldered chiefly by the countries on the borders of the Union, the creation of a common border police force or, alternatively, greater coordination among the police forces of the Member States and the focusing of attention on certain regions of the Union, such as the Mediterranean. Simitis also referred to the British proposal for the establishment of camps to house potential illegal immigrants in third countries.
According to Simitis, the Thessaloniki European Council should also occupy itself with the issue of Iraq, as well as the EU-US Summit to be held in Washington in the last week of June, the focus of which will be transatlantic relations.
Replying to questions, Simitis said he was in favour of a strong, common and single European foreign policy and defence policy, while insisting on the principle of unanimity in decision-taking in the framework of the CFSP.
Rasmusssen congratulated Simitis “on the manner in which he is leading the European Union within the framework of the EU Presidency” and concurred with his Greek counterpart on the issue of unanimity in CFSP matters.