Monday, January 4, 2010

Papandreou : Rapid integration of the West Balkans in the EU achievable

January 4, 2010

ImageGreek Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Jorgos Papandreou said in Belgrade today that the year 2014 is a target year for all the West Balkan countries to join the European Union. At the ambassadorial conference in the Serbian capital, Papandreou said that the West Balkans must take major steps forward and relieve the region of the burden of wars and conflicts of the past.

Reminding that Greece has launched an initiative for all countries in the region to become full EU member states on the hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, Papandreou said that the goal is achievable.

Regarding the thorny Kosovo issue and whether Greece has been pressured to recognise Kosovo's unilaterally declared independence, Papandreou stated that Athens' position on the issue "is known and will not change."

"The stability of the greater region and international law remain the cornerstones of our policy and in this spirit we are focusing on efforts that are aimed at the creation of a safe and prosperous environment for all people in Kosovo, the Serb community included," Papandreou stated, adding that "the protection of the cultural and religious heritage in Kosovo is immensely important and our involvement in the region is proof of our dedication to these goals. This means that preserving the Serbian cultural and religious heritage is a top priority for everyone in the EU."

He pointed out that EU membership implies peaceful resolution of conflicts, respect of human and minority rights and the fight against illegal migration, organized crime and corruption. Speaking of the status of Kosovo, the Greek Prime Minister stated that it is a complex issue and emphasized that Athens supports the solution based on the UN Charter and international law.

Papandreou reiterated that Greece supports the position of the Belgrade authorities that succeeded in having the UN General Assembly request an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the legality of unilaterally proclaimed independence of Kosovo.

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