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26/06/2006 16:45 Local Time 
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Thessaloniki European Council: Concluding press conference of the Greek Presidency (20/6/03)

The President of the European Council, Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Friday described the second and final day of the European summit as “a good day for the European Union”.

Speaking at a press conference, Simitis referred to the targets set by the Greek Presidency for the Thessaloniki European Council, noting that the timely completion of the European Convention’s work was “extremely doubtful” three months ago, even in the opinion of Convention President Valery Giscard d’Estaing.

Other Presidency targets attained at the Thessaloniki European Council were the funding of migration policies and the promotion of new ways to combat illegal immigration, as well as the discussion on the new international role of the EU and transatlantic relations, based on the text of EU High Representative for CFSP, Javier Solana (which will be concluded in December) and the briefing by Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt on the initiative of the four EU countries aimed at shaping a European defence policy.

Commission President Romano Prodi underlined the commitment undertaken by the Commission to shortly prepare – in cooperation with the European Investment Bank – proposals to promote the growth of investments in the trans-european networks “thereby contributing to the Lisbon strategy”.

Referring to his report, Solana noted that it concisely describes the EU perspective vis-à-vis the challenges and threats in the new international environment. On the Middle East problem, Solana underlined the readiness expressed by the EU to take measures against organisations which do not cooperate in the peace process.

The President of the Council of Ministers, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou stressed the “decisive importance” of the debate recently initiated on the Greek island of Kastellorizo concerning the European perception of security issues.

Prodi and Solana both expressed their gratitude to Simitis and congratulated him on the productive contribution of the Greek Presidency. Asked for his personal assessment of the six-month presidency, Simitis said that “the struggle for the cohesion of the EU” during the Iraq crisis was in his opinion a notable “victory” for the presidency, as was the settlement of a number of outstanding issues (e.g. the tax package, the reuniting of migrants’ families, etc.).

Asked whether he accepted the European role attributed to him by an article in a US newspaper, Simitis reiterated that “I do not want to leave my country”.

Regarding the way in which the EU deals with ‘pariah states”, Solana noted that the decision-taking centre was the United Nations and military operations should only be a last resort.

Lastly, replying to a question on transatlantic relations, Papandreou said what came first was the self-awareness of the EU. “We have to see how we evaluate our interests, how we formulate our policies and by what means we implement them; what is the added value of the EU to the world, and consequently what is our approach to the strengthening of multilateral cooperation”.  

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