NEWS

Papandreou seeks broad consensus from rivals

Prime Minister George Papandreou on Tuesday met with the leaders of the main opposition parties in Parliament to establish a broad consensus ahead of a European Union summit later this month where Greece hopes to secure improved terms for the repayment of 110 billion euros in emergency loans from its international creditors.

Most of the premier?s rivals backed his administration?s bid to get better repayment conditions but pressed Papandreou to be more aggressive in fighting Greece?s corner in Brussels.

The premier took the opportunity to douse speculation about early elections – noting that his Socialist government ?still has much to do? and called on his political rivals to ?assume political responsibility.? He added that he was prepared to push Greece’s European counterparts for better borrowing terms.

The leader of the main conservative opposition party New Democracy, Antonis Samaras, called for ?radical changes to the terms of the memorandum,? referring to Greece?s agreement to implement austerity measures and structural reforms in exchange for emergency loans. ?The problem today is the asphyxiation of the Greek economy which the memorandum itself is causing,? Samaras said. The ND leader said he supported the creation of a Eurobond and the extension of the period given to Greece to repay its debts.

The leader of the far-right Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), Giorgos Karatzaferis, struck a similar note, calling on the government to adopt ?a more aggressive policy? opposite its European partners, noting that ?what is at stake on March 25 is not the future of Geeece but the future of Europe.?

Communist Party (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga remarked that ?there is no scope for consensus.? ?The worst is yet to come,? she said, noting that any decision to emerge in Brussels would involve more austerity measures. The leader of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Alexis Tsipras called on Papandreou to reject the ?competitiveness pact? put forward by France and Germany, which recommends that wages should not be linked to inflation and that retirement ages should be linked to life expectancy in each country. Tsipras called for the pact to be put to a referendum.

Papandreou also met with Democratic Alliance leader Dora Bakoyannis and with Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis.