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23/06/2006 11:35 Local Time 
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Thessaloniki European Council (19-21/6/03): Press review

The draft EU Constitution and policies on migration and asylum are the focus of articles in the international press on the Thessaloniki European Council. Another issue widely covered was the text on European security policy to be presented by EU High Representative for CFSP Javier Solana.

The German newspaper Die Welt (19/6) notes that the common policy on asylum is among the top items on the agenda of the Greek Presidency, while reference is made to the increase of financing for programmes aimed at the protection of the Union’s external borders.

The German edition of the Financial Times (19/6) comments that “the draft Constitution divides European leaders”, noting that in addition to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis is also in favour of the adoption of the draft Constitution.

The BBC web site (19/6) highlights the strict security measures for the summit as well as the anticipated demonstrations, while also referring at length to the differences of opinion between the UK and other European countries on asylum and migration policies. In addition, it notes that the British proposals concerning transit centres for illegal immigrants are not – for the time being – on the agenda for discussion.

The Times and The Independent refer extensively to British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s proposals on asylum and migration, emphasising in particular the plans for the establishment of ‘protection zones’ outside Europe. 

The Guardian notes a statement by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, according to which the UK is determined to exercise a veto in the event that the Constitution extends decision-taking by majority to the areas of foreign policy, defence and taxation.

The Spanish newspaper El Pais, in an article on the Thessaloniki European Council, speaks of an effort to heal the wounds inflicted by the war in Iraq.

Belgian media refer at length to migration policy issues and the draft Constitution. Dutch media emphasise Solana’s defence policy proposals, while Swedish newspapers focus on the reactions of Swedish political parties to Blair’s proposals on asylum.

The newspapers of the Western Balkan countries refer to the proposals of the Greek Presidency on the strengthening of the region’s European vocation, while noting that the Western Balkans-EU summit provides an opportunity.

The Turkish press conveys Ankara’s intention to participate in the Intergovernmental Conference as an observer. In an interview with the newspaper Sabah, Greece’s Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Giannitsis notes that Turkey missed an opportunity in Copenhagen, but has the possibility of coming closer to Europe if, by December 2004, it has met the criteria set by the EU.

The US press focuses on EU-US relations, noting (Washington Post) that the intention of the European leaders is to set common political targets with the USA and strengthen economic ties. The Wall Street Journal also presents views on the issue of migration.

Lastly, the Greek press writes extensively about the agenda of the Thessaloniki European Council and refers at length to the different views on migration policy, the draft Constitution and the demonstrations planned. 

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