Speaking at a joint press conference with his Dutch counterpart Jan Peter Balkenende in The Hague on Tuesday (10 June), the President of the European Council, Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis stressed the importance of the forthcoming Thessaloniki European Council for the progress of consultations on the future of Europe.
“Decisions taken within the framework of the Constitutional Convention will determine how soon we will have results, so that by the time of European Parliament elections in 2004, we have a new Constitution, which is necessary,” the Greek premier said.
Simitis said he had had a very fruitful discussion with Balkenende, whom he briefed on the issues that are to be discussed in Thessaloniki, such as the common foreign and defence policy, transatlantic relations, the Western Balkans and illegal immigration.
Balkenende set out his country’s positions and said that as far as the Convention was concerned, the Netherlands preferred continuation of the present system of the rotating presidency. He added that if this was not possible, efforts should be made to find a compromise solution, the acceptance of which however would depend on the various preconditions.
“We cannot accept an inordinate strengthening of the European Council at the expense of the European Commission or the European Parliament. So, everything will depend on the powers that are vested in the president of the European Council and the role that the other institutions will play,” Balkenende said.