As thousands of protesting doctors, teachers and public transport staff marched through the streets of the capital on Wednesday, Prime Minister George Papandreou stressed that he respected the various demands being made by striking workers but that the repercussions of the debt crisis demanded a responsible approach. «We respect all these demands but we must also have respect for our obligations,» Papandreou said during a cabinet meeting.
The premier emphasized that the various reforms being drafted by his team of ministers were «changes which should have been made long ago.» He added that these reforms were not just aimed at the fiscal adjustment being demanded by Greece’s international creditors — referred to collectively as the troika — but had political and social ramifications too.
According to Deputy Finance Minister Filippos Sachinidis, Greece has already made significant headway. Sachinidis told Skai on Wednesday that Greece’s recent efforts had secured it the fourth installment of rescue funding, a sum of 15 billion euros which is to be disbursed in March. «The conclusion drawn from the assessment by the troika,» Sachinidis said, «is that Greece has honored its commitments and has been consistent and so the fourth installment is secure.»
Greece’s prospects for emerging from the debt crisis was one of the topics of a speech delivered to senior politicians and academics in Athens on Tuesday night by Joschka Fischer, the former German vice chancellor and foreign minister. Fischer, who met with Papandreou yesterday, expressed cautious optimism for the future of a united Europe, noting that it would be «a disastrous mistake» to blame Greece for the broader debt crisis within the bloc. In his speech at a conference organized by the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP), Fischer highlighted Greece’s «enormous potential» in the sectors of culture, tourism and shipping, adding that embracing new technologies could boost the country’s competitiveness.