European Council president pushes for reforms

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy on Tuesday congratulated the Greek government and people for an ongoing austerity drive but encouraged authorities to push ahead with unpopular structural reforms and an ambitious privatization program to get the economy back on track.

?The key is to continue implementing the courageous reforms and privatizations that have been agreed in a timely and effective manner,? Van Rompuy told a joint press conference at the Maximos Mansion following talks with Prime Minister George Papandreou.

The top European Union official emphasized that all these measures were unavoidable and should have been implemented long ago, but ?are in Greece?s long-term interest.? He also reiterated his confidence in the commitment of Papandreou?s administration to push through key structural reforms and the privatization program.

On the eventuality of Greece’s debt being restructured – the subject of feverish speculation in Greece and Europe in recent weeks – Van Rompuy did not mince his words. «Not only is it not on the agenda, it is out of the question,» he said.

Papandreou, who has been facing growing strife within the ranks of his Socialist party, is to provide details about the privatization plan and his government?s medium-term reform plan on Friday.

Addressing reporters with Van Rompuy on Tuesday, Papandreou noted that ?the efforts being made by Greek citizens are painful but they are bearing fruit.? He added that the goal of the reforms being promoted by his government was the resumption of growth to ?provide jobs for our young people.?

Earlier in the day, Van Rompuy also met with President Karolos Papoulias, who appeared less upbeat.

He told the European Council chief that Greece?s economic crisis, and the austerity measures being taken to counter it, had dealt a serious blow to social cohesion. The president thanked Van Rompuy for ?helping promote some of Greece?s requests in this great struggle? but noted that, nevertheless, ?the weaker social classes are suffering.?

As for Van Rompuy?s support for Greece?s positions, Papoulias indicated that he expected more, remarking, ?One swallow does not a summer make.?

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