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Euro: Greece And Russia Unveil New Initiative At Balkan Meeting

Salonika, 10 June 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Greece and Russia unveiled a major joint initiative today, which both sides hope could lead to Russia's participation in a southeastern European economic union.

The initiative was announced on the sidelines of a two-day Balkan summit in the northern Greek city of Salonika, which Russia attended as an observer. Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos told reporters that since the United States and the EU already have initiatives in the region, Athens "thought it would be a good idea to have a common action with Russia."

Pangalos said Greek and Russian experts will meet this autumn to prepare a follow-up meeting of foreign, energy, transportation and communications ministers. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Nikolai Afanassievsky said he hoped the summit meeting could take place before the end of 1998.

Russia has observer status at the Salonika meeting, where Macedonia, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Turkey and Serbia discussed enhancing regional political and economic cooperation. Officials from those countries agreed today to recommend a summit of heads of state and government later this year.

The Russian-Greek initiative was met with scepticism from some Balkan countries. Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nadezhda Miahilova said her country wanted to make sure that "overlapping options for integration are not created." She said Sofia saw its future in integration with the EU.