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Thessaloniki European Council (19-21/6/03): Press review 20/6

The withdrawal of the British proposals on ways to combat illegal immigration and the efforts under way to reach agreement on the draft Constitution are the main issues in international media dispatches from the Thessaloniki European Council.

In a despatch at the end of the first day of the summit, the Germany news agency DPA notes that the promotion of a policy that will link funding to third countries with their handling of migration issues is in the right direction. After referring to the natural beauty of the area in which the summit is being held and the good work of the Greek presidency, the despatch describes the talks on migration policy and the draft European Constitution as being particularly important for the day-to-day life of the European citizen and the political future of the EU respectively. The DPA dispatch refers extensively to agricultural issues and the impact at the summit of the continuation of farm ministers’ talks on CAP reform following the differences of opinion voiced.

The Guardian (UK) notes British Prime Minister Tony’s Blair’s inability to persuade his EU colleagues to endorse his proposal for the creation of ‘refugee protection zones’ near areas in which flows or refugees are likely to develop. The newspaper refers to the view expressed by UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers, censuring the EU for its unwillingness to fund ‘refugee protection zones’. Citing unnamed sources, the newspaper notes that Britain appears determined to go ahead with the implementation of its proposals together with like-minded countries.

In similar vein, The Independent (UK) writes that Blair lost the fight for ‘refugee protection zones’, while the Financial Times (UK) comments on the British proposals that did not meet with approval but notes the progress made on the establishment of common regulations for European passports and visas which, as the newspaper notes, is an issue of interest to the US authorities.

Le Monde (France) refers to the presentation of the draft Constitution, noting that France does not want any discussion of issues on which there are serious disagreements (full-time president of the European Council, decision-taking process), a position at odds with the views of Austria and Spain. In addition, Le Monde and Liberation refer to the demonstrations held on the first day of the summit, as well as parallel events. 

The Spanish newspapers El Mundo and El Pais both ran extensive front-page articles on the issue of migration, emphasising the British retreat and the priorities announced for common policies in this area.

The Italian newspaper La Stampa refers to the demonstrations as well as the text on security policy of EU High Representative for CFSP Javier Solana, noting that there is a desire to mend relations with the USA.

The US press outlines the agenda of the summit, while the New York Times notes that the 25 European leaders are seeking to establish common ground with Washington.

Lastly, the Greek press refers to the agreement reached on aspects of migration policy and extensively to the demonstrations, but also Solana’s security policy text, noting that an effort is under way to mend relations with the USA.   


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