NEWS

Papandreou optimistic following EU summit

Prime Minister George Papandreou on Friday lauded his government?s efforts to dig the debt-ridden country out of serious economic problems as a meeting of European Union leaders failed to conclude with the agreement of a comprehensive solution to the crisis in the eurozone.

Speaking at the end of a two-day summit in Brussels, Papandreou said that this week?s gathering and the emergency meeting of eurozone leaders earlier this month both highlighted that Greece is on the right track in tackling its mammoth deficit.

?We made big sacrifices,? he said. ?The efforts are today recognized by all European partners. The efforts have delivered results. We need time, but we are committed to put Greece on a new path, on a modern path.?

Papandreou said that EU leaders recognized his government?s efforts by rubber-stamping a deal to extend the repayment period for Greece?s 110-billion-euro emergency loan package with the EU and the International Monetary Fund from three to 7.5 and lower the interest rate to 4.2 from 5.2 percent.

?We were not done any favors,? he told journalists. ?The decision was reached after solid bargaining. We took some very difficult decisions so we could make our economy viable again? but now we can look to the future with greater hope. Our strategy has been vindicated.?

Meanwhile, European leaders failed to produce the much-anticipated anti-crisis package and delayed until June a final decision on increasing the 27-member bloc?s temporary bailout facility, the European Financial Stability Facility.

The Brussels summit was clouded by Portugal?s financial troubles. Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates quit on Thursday after the country?s parliament rejected austerity measures aimed at staving off a bailout.

There were also concerns about the state of Irish banks, which prompted new Prime Minister Enda Kenny to put off renegotiating the terms of his country?s 85-billion-euro bailout.

Greece and Ireland were warned by German Chancellor Angela Merkel that they both still had a lot of work ahead of them. ?The euro has survived a critical test but there is lots of homework to be done,? she said.

?Member states face many years of work to atone for past sins,? she said.