PM Harper backs Greece on visit to discuss closer ties
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.