Prokopios Mantzouranis: No Real Rift in EU over Iraq Exists

Novinite Insider » INTERVIEW | February 6, 2003, Thursday // 00:00

H.E. Prokopios Mantzouranis is the new Greek ambassador in Sofia. He has substantial diplomatic experience. Before his appointment in Bulgaria, he worked as Director of Directorate on OSCE and Council of Europe Issues. He was also Greece's ambassador in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. In 1978, he worked as consul at the Embassy of Greece in Sofia. In 2001, he was promoted to Minister Plenipotentiary, First Class.

H.E. Mantzouranis met Martina Iovcheva

Q: Greece is trying to muster support for an emergency EU summit on Iraq. How are the negotiations going about that summit, are there favorable reactions? What can be achieved at that summit?

A: I must say in the beginning that Greece would like to organize a summit of the European Union member states on the Iraqi crisis and on the common position of the European Union although there has already been a common position Monday, last week - January 27th. Greece believes that this position still remains in force.

Q: How would you comment then the declaration of the leaders of eight European countries last week that backed Bush....

A: In the European Union there are fifteen member countries plus ten that will join soon and that is why we must understand that there are different points of view. The methodology has to be corrected sometimes. We must also know that a presidency of the European Union is supposed to bridge gaps not to undermine situations. That explains why the Greek presidency is trying to construct a European Summit. The idea for the summit will be much clearer by tonight* after the meeting of the UN Security Council.

Q: Is the rift in Europe over Iraq too wide to heal in your opinion?

A: I don't think there is a real rift although there have been first moment reactions, which were sometimes hard. The common European life is very solid and has already acquired a historical value. It exists since 1957 and it cannot be destroyed by one, two, three or even more events even of greater importance than this declaration. We as presidency do not think that this is a major event really. No, we don't see any rift. There is a difference in points of view but the European institutional framework is too strong and it will absorb these differences, you will see.

Q: Is Greece opposing Iraqi disarmement by force?

A: Greece is for the disarming of Iraq, Iraq deposing its nuclear and bio-chemical weapons. This is the spirit of the 1441 resolution of the UN Security Council and we are working for the peaceful disarming of Iraq. We hope that war will not take place. It's normal because terrible things happen at war.

Q: Could a decision of Bulgaria to support US in a strike against Iraq deteriorate the country's relations with EU?

A: I trust that the government and the president are in a good position to take decisions in Bulgaria's interests. I have no reasons to think that the country's relations with the European Union could get worse because of such a decision.

Q: What are the biggest challenges that Greece will face during its EU presidency?

A: The biggest challenge is already in front of us - the Iraqi crisis. It is a challenge. Of course, a priority of the Greek EU presidency is enlargement and you know that the treaty of accession is to be signed on April 16th in Athens. This means that the new countries will join the union on May 1st, 2004. There are things to happen between the signing of the treaty in April and May, 2004. I think that this is a kind of challenge but it is mostly a priority of the Greek presidency.

The other challenges....you know, the war in Iraq has covered all the rest. War is a major event in human life and no war is without consequences. It is very important to occupy our minds with this event, we cannot avoid it. We would like very much to be free of such a perspective and to take care of the current European affairs.

Q: What are the potential stumbling blocks that could delay or block the first wave of enlargement?

A: I don't see any problems as far as the ten new countries are concerned.

Q: How would you assess Bulgaria's progress towards EU membership? What could delay Bulgaria becoming member in 2007?

A: 2007 is the target year that has been decided in Copenhagen. We must say that Bulgaria has done a lot of progress. We must also say that there is a lot more to be done. Bulgaria has to concentrate its efforts mostly upon two or three chapters that have to be closed in the near future either under the Greek or the Italian presidency. This is also a matter of the European Commission, which is very meticulous upon what has been negotiated to be implemented.

Q: Do you think that the peer review in Bulgaria's N-plant Kozloduy could take place during the first half of the year?

A: It will not take place under the Greek EU presidency.

Q: What does Greece aim to achieve politically and economically with the Greek plan for the Balkans?

A: This is a plan of reconstruction - a plan, which comprises EUR 550 M. The sum of 54 million euros has been allocated to Bulgaria. Obviously, this money has been offered so that the Balkan neighbors do construction or training in the sectors they would opt for.

Construction, training, equipment are all sectors, in which the Balkan countries might take advantage of the Greek plan for reconstruction.

Q: In what projects will the funding be invested in Bulgaria?

A: The national coordinator Finance Minister Mr. Velchev has already proposed some very interesting projects and they mostly concern infrastructure of the country. We must say that without infrastructure no country, especially a European country, can face the challenges of the present and of course of the future.

Q: When do you think the trans-Balkan oil pipeline Burgas - Alexandroupolis project will be unfrozen?

A: The project is not frozen. An agreement over the project was made in the beginning of last November. It is not a bilateral project but a trilateral agreement. The Russian side for some reasons, I think understandable, postponed the signing of the agreement. This agreement was signed last week bilaterally between Greece and Bulgaria. As for the Russian signature, we have had all necessary assurances that it will be given very soon and we are waiting for it.

*The interview was taken on February 5th before the UN Security Council meeting, during which Secretary of State Colin Powell presented the U.S. evidence against Iraq.

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