The President of the European Council, Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, expressed the hope that the differences within the ranks of the European Union on the issue of a common defence policy would be bridged with a joint decision by all Member States. He was speaking at a joint press conference with his Estonian counterpart Juhan Parts in Tallinn on Tuesday 6 May.
Referring to the different views prevailing in the EU on the issue, Simitis said “…we, as Greece, believe that we should have autonomy in matters of defence, but at the same time we should also cooperate very closely with the United States”.
Replying to questions, Simitis referred to Greece’s position concerning the possibility of a permanent EU presidency, saying he was in favour of an alternating annual presidency.
In Tallinn, the first stop on his recommenced tour of EU capitals prior to the Thessaloniki European Council, Simitis expressed to Parts the satisfaction of the ‘15’ over Estonia’s accession to the Union and their readiness to cooperate with Estonia, as well as with the other countries, in order to create the new 25-nation Europe.
Simitis congratulated the Estonian people on their efforts and described his talks with Parts as “particularly fruitful and cordial”. He said he had briefed his Estonian counterpart on the issues to be discussed in Thessaloniki, especially the conclusions of the Convention, the fight against illegal immigration and the common policy on security and defence issues.
On his part, Parts described his meeting with Simitis as “very cordial and constructive”.