PM Harper backs Greece on visit to dis­cuss closer ties

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper ex­pressed con­fi­dence over the week­end in Greece’s at­tempts to over­come its debt prob­lems. On a two-day visit to the coun­try, Harper held talks with Pa­pan­dreou on Satur­day and said he was con­fi­dent that with the help of the Euro­pean Union, Greece would be able to exit the cri­sis. “We have ev­ery con­fi­dence that our Greek hosts here and that our Euro­pean friends will con­tinue to deal with these mat­ters so that the global econ­omy can con­tinue mov­ing for­ward.” Like Pa­pan­dreou, Harper has also faced op­po­si­tion in his gov­ern­ment’s at­tempt to cut Canada’s deficit, so he said he un­der­stood the prob­lems the Greek premier faces in achiev­ing po­lit­i­cal con­sen­sus. “I know from ex­pe­ri­ence that it is not un­usual for op­po­si­tion par­ties to refuse to co­op­er­ate with the gov­ern­ment,” he said. “But gov­ern­ments have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to act. And I cer­tainly ad­mire the de­ter­mi­na­tion of Prime Min­is­ter Pa­pan­dreou, and the very dif­fi­cult ac­tions he’s had to un­der­take in re­sponse to prob­lems his gov­ern­ment did not cre­ate.” Ac­com­pa­ny­ing Harper on the trip was Trea­sury Board Pres­i­dent Tony Cle­ment, who is of Greek her­itage. Cle­ment will be in charge of mak­ing the $4 bil­lion in cuts to gov­ern­ment ser­vices next year. Harper said he wanted Cle­ment to sit in on the meet­ings to show him “we have noth­ing like the chal­lenges faced here in Greece.” Cle­ment also signed a youth mo­bil­ity agree­ment with Greece as part of the trip. The agree­ment helps fa­cil­i­tate work and tourist trips by young peo­ple. There are about 250,000 Cana­di­ans of Greek de­scent and sev­eral within the prime min­is­ter’s cir­cle, in­clud­ing Cle­ment and newly elected mem­ber of par­lia­ment Costas Mene­gakis. Both were on the trip. They were part of a busi­ness roundtable Harper held with a group of Cana­dian and Greek ex­ec­u­tives, in­clud­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Coca-Cola and Bom­bardier. Harper’s di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Dim­itri Soudas, is also of Greek ori­gin. Yes­ter­day, Harper vis­ited the vil­lage of Kalavryta in the Pelo­pon­nese, where mem­bers of Soudas’s fam­ily still live and where his grand­fa­ther was one of 696 peo­ple ex­e­cuted dur­ing World War II.

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