PM vows to stay the course

Pa­pan­dreou moves ahead with reshuf­fle, dous­ing spec­u­la­tion that PASOK re­bel­lion would push him out

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Prime Min­is­ter Ge­orge Pa­pan­dreou said yes­ter­day he would con­tinue to lead his trou­bled gov­ern­ment in a bid to ex­tract Greece from its debt cri­sis, dous­ing spec­u­la­tion that a dis­pute in PASOK would force him to quit.

“The coun­try is at a crit­i­cal junc­ture and we must be de­ci­sive in tack­ling the dif­fi­cult chal­lenges that lie ahead,” Pa­pan­dreou told Par­lia­ment. “You can rely on me and I will sup­port the na­tional ef­fort to ex­tract Greece from the cri­sis,” he said.

The premier con­firmed he would reshuf­fle his Cabi­net be­fore seek­ing a vote of con­fi­dence. Sources said late yes­ter­day that the reshuf­fle would be an­nounced at 9 a.m. to­day.

Pa­pan­dreou’s speech came just hours af­ter two res­ig­na­tions by So­cial­ist MPs threw the rul­ing party into tur­moil and fu­eled spec­u­la­tion that more would quit.

The de­vel­op­ments also came just a day af­ter Pa­pan­dreou failed in a fourth at­tempt to se­cure po­lit­i­cal con­sen­sus to push through a sec­ond set of aus­ter­ity mea­sures re­quired to se­cure more loans from the EU and the IMF.

The leader of the main con­ser­va­tive op­po­si­tion, An­to­nis Sa­ma­ras, yes­ter­day stuck to his guns, in­sist­ing on the need for a rene­go­ti­a­tion of the terms of Greece’s agree­ment with its cred­i­tors – a prospect that the lat­ter have al­ready ruled out.

Sa­ma­ras claimed that the gov­ern­ment’s aus­ter­ity drive was fail­ing and used a state­ment at­trib­uted to Al­bert Ein­stein to il­lus­trate the per­ceived point­less­ness of the mea­sures. “In­san­ity is do­ing the same thing over and over again and ex­pect­ing dif­fer­ent re­sults,” he re­marked. “PASOK can’t gov­ern any­more,” he added, claim­ing that the cred­i­bil­ity of Pa­pan­dreou and his party had been eroded.

On the is­sue of a seem­ingly im­pos­si­ble con­sen­sus with the So­cial­ists, Sa­ma­ras noted that one pre­req­ui­site for the con­ser­va­tives would be for the gov­ern­ment to re­peal a cit­i­zen­ship law, voted through Par­lia­ment last year, that gives greater rights to im­mi­grants’ chil­dren born in Greece.

De­spite the clear lack of com­mon ground be­tween the two par­ties, Pa­pan­dreou said he would press on with ef­forts to garner con­sen­sus. “Now is not the time to give up,” he said. “Now is the time to con­tinue, now is the time to say yes to im­por­tant change.”

Pa­pan­dreou said the cabi­net reshuf­fle would re­vi­tal­ize his ad­min­is­tra­tion, which he ad­mit­ted was guilty of “mis­takes and short­falls.” “The next gov­ern­ment will be more ef­fec­tive and more co­he­sive,” he said.

The premier said he sym­pa­thized with be­leagured Greeks. “I un­der­stand the pain and even the anger of the peo­ple,” he said. The new aus­ter­ity mea­sures be­ing pro­posed were “tough and in some cases even un­fair” but un­avoid­able, he said. “The sooner we im­ple­ment them, the sooner we will emerge from the cri­sis,” he said.

Pa­pan­dreou crit­i­cized in­ter­na­tional rat­ing agen­cies for a se­ries of down- grades of Greece’s cred­it­wor­thi­ness and said that Euro­pean of­fi­cials had also made mis­takes in re­cent months in tack­ling a broad­en­ing and deep­en­ing debt cri­sis. Look­ing for­ward, he pro­posed the idea of hold­ing a ref­er­en­dum to re­form the Greek Con­sti­tu­tion – a move that would al­low authorities to cut jobs in the pub­lic sec­tor which are cur­rently pro­tected.

Prime Min­is­ter Ge­orge Pa­pan­dreou

at­tends an emer­gency session of his be­lea­guered So­cial­ist party’s par­lia­men­tary group yes­ter­day. Pa­pan­dreou said he would push on with re­forms and con­tinue to seek cross-party con­sen­sus. ‘We don’t have the lux­ury of run­ning away from this prob­lem,’ the premier said and crit­i­cized in­ter­na­tional rat­ing agen­cies for a se­ries of down­grades of Greece’s cred­it­wor­thi­ness which had con­trib­uted to the debt-rid­den coun­try’s woes.

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