Papandreou: Critical Period Ahead
Athens News Agency September 2, 2003
The coming period promised to be crucial for a number of major foreign policy issues for Greece, such as a final settlement of the Cyprus problem or the start of accession negotiations beween Turkey and the European Union, Foreign Minister George Papandreou said during an interview with 'Flash' radio station broadcast on Tuesday
''Foreign policy did not come to an end with (the Greek EU) presidency or with Cyprus' accession (to the EU),'' Papandreou noted during the interview, pointing out that important prospects were opening up a solution to the Cyprus problem, in Greek-Turkish relations and for stabilisation and economic development in the Balkans.
''I predict that developments of the next months will be extremely significant, since apart from the formal accession of Cyprus to the European Union in May 2004, in December 2004 there will be the final assessment of Turkey's course and whether or not to begin negotations to make (Turkey) a member of the European Union,'' he noted.
Part of this assessment would include a careful look at a number of issues apart from internal reforms carried out within Turkey, such as progress in the Cyprus issue and in Greek-Turkish relations, he said.
''This means that we are before important, highly important developments, in issues of historic importance for us,'' the minister added.
During the interview, Papandreou confirmed that his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul was due to visit Athens for the established twice-yearly bilateral talks in the Autumn. He said the meeting would cover a review of Greek-Turkish relations, Turkey's European course and the Cyprus issue, in addition to peripheral issues such as Iraq, the Balkans and the Middle East.
At another point, Papandreou noted that developments in the Middle East and Iraq might well have a crucial impact on both international developments and the neighbourhood of Greece.
''We are seening developments that are painful, not just for the region there but for the entire world, since we are talking about the radicalisation of populations - which are either Arabic or Moslem countries''.
In addition, he noted that Greece had a role in the important developments and challenges within the EU, such as the drafting of a new EU Constitution.
On domestic issues, Papandreou said the time had come for ''serious, major decisions'' for radical changes to the ruling PASOK party in order to create a party that was ''open, democratic, modern, that every citizen could feel to be their own.'' According to the minister, the party had so far moved at a snail's pace in making such changes and he declared himself a warm supporter of the current debate on reforms within the party.