Greek minister lambastes UK over Turkey deal: Theodore Pangalos has added London to his list of enemies, writes Leonard Doyle

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The Independent Online
GREECE'S outspoken Foreign Minister, Theodore Pangalos, has attacked Britain for failing to consult before embarking on a new co-operation agreement with Turkey - a country, he says, that 'is dragging its bloodied boots across the carpets of Europe'.

In an interview with the Independent Mr Pangalos stood by his earlier remarks about Turkey and his equally controversial description of Germany as 'a giant with bestial force and a child's brain' for seeking full diplomatic relations with the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, Greece's neighbour.

It was a 'literary remark, a historical remark', Mr Pangalos said on Wednesday, 'and if (Germany) is offended, it should remember the mistake of prematurely recognising Bosnia and even Croatia'.

Britain's decision not to consult Athens before setting up a co-operation agreement with Ankara and Bonn was as though 'Greece and Spain discussed Ulster with Ireland without saying anything to the British Government,' he said.

Mr Pangalos's central message, however, was that the coming six months in Europe could prove to be a 'disaster for democracy' if European voters turn out in large numbers next year for extremists and xenophobic parties.

Next year is set to be the busiest electoral year ever for the 350 million citizens of the European Union. And there are indications that 20 million voters will cast their ballots for neo-facist or other extremist candidates.

Elections to the European Parliament are set for June, followed by the election of a new European Commission in July. In Germany meanwhile 19 elections will be held, including a federal election in the autumn.

Mr Pangalos warned that a combination of a crippling economic recession and austerity policies could lead to social unrest and a swing towards extremists in many of the elections.

'There is already instability in Italy, instability in Spain and a weak majority in Britain, especially on European matters,' he said. All this was occuring during the worst economic recession in Europe since the 1930s.

But the immediate flashpoint in Greece's relations with its EU partners is certain to be over Macedonia. The wild card of the Balkans, Macedonia's economy is crumbling and many European diplomats fear it will become the next battleground, triggering a war between its neighbours.

Mr Pangalos was also unimpressed with talks aimed at bringing the three Visegrad countries, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, into association with Nato if it meant excluding other eastern European countries, which like Greece are of predominantly Orthodox faith.

About half the EU's member states, including Britain, Germany and France, are moving to have full diplomatic relations with Macedonia - before Greece takes over the EU presidency on 1 January. A simultaneous move by EU countries would be 'highly regrettable', he said, 'a hostile act towards Greece, (which) will create problems in the area'.

Mr Pangalos, 55, was in London for talks with the Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd. Speaking of next week's EU summit he said that the heads of state should prepare a spending programme in the new year to ease the chronic unemployment in the EU and head off social unrest.

'Lets imagine the worst scenario,' he said. 'Imagine that we have the Euro elections with very low participation, a large vote for extremists, xenopohobic racist or frivolous parties . . . that will be a disaster for democracy.'

Any time there were back- to-back elections in Europe in the past, it had been 'a very bad situation', Mr Pangalos said, and caused politicians to outbid one another for public support. The dangers could already be seen in Italy, where 'frivolous political parties' and groups such as the Northern League are presented as 'serious political movements'.

Greece's answer was for the summit to lift economic restraints by freeing money for industry. The EU should also promote technical innovation, finance for small and medium enterprises, infrastructure, training and easier, cheaper money for new enterpreneurs, Mr Pangalos said.

The new Pasok government, with its socialist credentials, is in a minority among Christian Democrat and conservative- dominated governments in the EU and he agreed his proposal that the EU spend its way out of trouble is likely to fall on deaf ears when heads of state gather in Brussels next week.

(Photograph omitted)

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