The President of the European Council, Prime Minister Costas Simitis underlined the significance of the fact that for the first time in the EU, Greece and Italy had submitted at the beginning of the year a joint programme of the two presidencies for the entire year. He was speaking in Rome, last stop on his tour of EU capitals in preparation for the Thessaloniki European Council.
In statements after a meeting with his Italian counterpart, Silvio Berlusconi, Simitis stressed that the Greek Presidency “agrees’ with its successor the Italian, that the Intergovernmental Conference should begin in October, end before 1 May at the latest and the new Treaty be signed in the period from 1/5 to 15/6, i.e. before the next European elections.
Simitis also underlined his “absolute agreement” with Berlusconi that a joint policy should be implemented to combat illegal immigration, backed by EU funds.
Replying to questions, Simitis described the draft Constitution as “a good compromise under the present conditions”, while observing that “the Constitution which we shall agree is a solution that will have effect for a certain period of time. Europe will take further steps later”.
Berlusconi, replying to a question on his recent visit to Israel, clarified that he had accepted an invitation from Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon and that he had taken the opportunity to invite Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas to Rome.
Lastly, replying to a question on the fact that his visit to Rome coincided with Berlusconi’s summoning to appear before a Milan court, Simitis referred to the “self-evident rule” according to which “there is a lawful government in each country, with which the EU and the Presidency have relations”.