The informal meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe currently chaired by Greece took place on Corfu Sunday following the successful NATO – Russia meeting on Saturday.

The OSCE meeting gave European foreign ministers the opportunity to discuss issues of European security, nearly a year after Russia’s war with Georgia raised concerns about stability on the continent’s eastern front.

The ministers’ informal meeting on the western Greek island is the first such gathering in 34-year history of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a grouping of 56 countries encompassing regions from North America to Europe, Central Asia and Russia.

The meeting between NATO General Secretary Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saw NATO and Russia resume formal cooperation on broad security threats but failed to bridge major differences over Georgia.

The weekend meetings in Corfu also gave the Greek Prime Minister and the Greek Foreign Minister opportunities to meet with their European counterparts.

The Greek Prime Minister, Costas Karamanlis, and Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, met for 35 minutes in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere which saw Berlusconi extend an invitation for Karamanlis to visit Rome.

Illegal immigration was the main topic following the decisions taken the previous weeks at the European Union Summit.

The Summit had agreed that:

  • The EU should seek to forge new repatriation pacts with migrants’ countries of origin and with “transit countries” such as Turkey and Libya.
  • The activities of the EU’s border monitoring agency Frontex be boosted to curb illegal immigration in the southeastern Mediterranean region.

The Greek Prime Minister had said that the decisions taken at the summit were heading in the right direction but agreed with Berlusconi’s insistence that the introduction of the measures should be sped up.

The difficulties in implementing repatriation agreements were discussed as well as the proposal for the establishment of a European coast guard.

The Turkey – Greece – Italy and South Stream energy agreements were also raised for discussion.

The Greek Foreign Minister, Dora Bakoyiannis, met with her Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu, with whom she raised the recent breaches of Greek borders and airspace over the Aegean.

“I hope that my discussions with Mr Davutoglu will lead, in the first instance, to a change in the current atmosphere,” the Greek Foreign Minister said.

The Greek Foreign Minister met with US Deputy Secretary of State, James Steinberg, who deputised for Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, who was unable to attend because of an injury to her elbow.

They signed a number of bilateral agreements such as easing the visa requirements for travel from Greece to the United States and on co-operation in dealing organised crime.

At the time we went to press it had not been confirmed whether the Greek Foreign Minister had meet with her FYROM counterpart, Antonio Milososki.

Bakoyiannis had indicated prior to the conference that she would try and catch up with her counterpart from FYROM.

Upon arriving in Corfu Milososki expressed his hope to meet with the Greek Foreign Minister.

“I hope that we will be able to meet with our Greek counter parts to continue the dialogue and to send a message of friendship to the Greek nation.”

The Greek Foreign Minister met with her British counterpart, David Milliband, her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov,  as well as her German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.