EU summit in Greece

20-06-2003

European Union leaders and representatives of the ten candidate countries slated to join the EU in 2004 are holding a three day summit in Greece. The meeting is taking place amid intense security in the luxury Greek resort of Porto Carras about 100 kilometres from Thessaloniki. Rob Cameron is with the Czech government delegation at the summit and reports on how things are going.

EU summit in Greece, photo: CTKEU summit in Greece, photo: CTKAs you know, the word "chaos" is a Greek word, and I don't think I'm being too unkind if I say that yesterday there was a great deal of chaos here. The problem is the location that the Greek government chose for this summit is rather unsuited to holding a major event of this kind. Originally they planned it for the city of Thessaloniki itself, but due to concerns about demonstrations and also a possible terrorist attack, they moved it to this holiday resort on the Chalkidiki peninsula. On Thursday they wanted to bring in VIPs by helicopter and by boat, but in the end the weather was so bad they had to be bussed in by limousine, and of course the traffic on these winding country roads was terrible. So it was all a bit of a mess.

So what is the main focus of this summit Rob?

Well, there are two main issues under discussion here. One, of course, is the future EU Constitution. There will be no final decision on that here. That will be discussed at the intergovernmental conference (IGC) which is to take place in Italy in October. But there will be some preliminary discussions between EU leaders on the future of the EU Constitution and on the future of Europe itself, and already there are deep splits emerging even now about that. Another issue, which was on the table yesterday, is asylum policy - how to keep Europe's borders closed to illegal migrants once the bloc expands by ten members. Britain tabled a proposal to establish special refugee camps in conflict zones outside the European Union to stop people coming into the EU and that was just swept off the table. So already some major divisions are emerging here.

EU summit in Greece, photo: CTKEU summit in Greece, photo: CTK Are there any particular Czech concerns Rob? I understand that the Czech delegation is now being treated as an equal partner.

They are being treated as an equal partner but they don't as yet have voting rights on either the EU Council of Ministers or the European Council. That will only come after membership in May of 2004. The major concern seems to be that this draft of the EU Constitution remains simply a basis for further discussion rather than a rigid blueprint for the future. I think the Czechs want to spend the next year discussing this in order to get the best deal possible for small countries like the Czech Republic.

Is there any particular goal? What are the expectations of this conference?

Well this conference comes after April's EU Summit in Athens, and that was meant to heal the wounds caused by the Iraq conflict. I think this conference will want to build on that. As far as the draft EU Constitution is concerned, some people - like former French President Giscard d'Estaing, who oversaw the Convention which drew up the draft - want the member states to accept the findings of the Convention and accept the proposal for the EU Constitution rather than opening up the fundamental questions raised by it. So a major success of this summit I think will be if the proposed draft of the EU Constitution survives intact.

20-06-2003