Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis last week described as “a great success for Greek foreign policy” a meeting on Corfu of foreign ministers of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) at which proposals for a new European security structure were thrashed out.

“It is a great success for Greek foreign policy that the 56 countries of the OSCE responded to our invitation and are here today to discuss openly, in a free and sincere dialogue, all the problems affecting Europe and particularly security concerns,” Karamanlis said.

Though the summit focused on broader issues of security as well as the strengthening of relations between NATO and Russia following Moscow’s military intervention in Georgia last year, it also gave Athens, which currently holds the OSCE’s rotating presidency, the opportunity to make some headway on issues of domestic interest; these include the problem of illegal immigration, tensions in the Aegean, the Cyprus problem and Greece’s efforts to secure visa-free US travel.

Bakoyannis took advantage of her platform before high-ranking diplomats to stress the need for closer cooperation to curb illegal immigration, which has become a serious problem in Greece and other countries on the EU’s external borders, such as Italy.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who attended the summit, was said to be in close agreement with Karamanlis on issues of immigration.

US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, replacing Hillary Clinton who pulled out of a scheduled appearance due to an arm injury, stressed that Washington shared Greece’s concern on issues ranging from illegal immigration to the division of Cyprus.

In an interview with state television, Steinberg said that it was “in the common interest” of Athens and Washington to tackle a burgeoning influx to Europe of illegal immigrants, due to the security threat this may pose.

Steinberg also expressed concern about the recent increase in violations of Greek air space by Turkish jets in the Aegean and stressed Washington’s backing for a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem.