NEWS

PM seeks consensus ahead of EU summit

Prime Minister George Papandreou is due to meet with the leaders of the four opposition parties represented in Parliament on Tuesday in a bid to forge a broad political consensus ahead of a European Union summit where Greece hopes to secure improved terms for the repayment of 110 billion euros it is borrowing from its eurozone partners and the International Monetary Fund.

Papandreou rallied together all his ministers late on Monday for an emergency meeting to discuss tactics ahead of talks in Brussels.

According to sources, Papandreou is also keen to get the backing of his political rivals on the broad strokes of a strategy to extricate Greece from its debt crisis before he travels to Brussels on Friday for the first of two crucial EU summits. The second summit, scheduled for March 24 and 25, is to focus on drafting a common approach to debt and deficit problems in the bloc.

It remains unclear what kind of consensus Papandreou is likely to get from his political rivals, most of whom have vehemently criticized the government?s reform program as socially unfair and strangling growth.

The prime minister has also faced opposition within his own ranks including a rift that opened up last week between Interior Minister Yiannis Ragousis and Defense Minister Evangelos Venizelos over Greece?s policy on illegal immigrants. The internal strife fueled speculation about a cabinet reshuffle but sources told Kathimerini any changes are unlikely until after the EU summit on March 24 and 25.

On Sunday Papandreou told a meeting of Socialist party leaders in Athens that Greece?s efforts to emerge from its crisis were part of a broader European endeavor. ?For us, the changes in Greece and Europe are a parallel and common struggle,? he said.

In a related development, European Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn told the German business daily Handelsblatt that eurozone countries should improve the terms of loans to Greece and Ireland.