NEWS

Reforms fail to match desired pace

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy on Tuesday encouraged Greece to push ahead with unpopular structural reforms and an ambitious privatization program but it emerged later in the day that the presentation of the government?s midterm program for 2012-15 was being postponed until next month, along with its privatization plans.

?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 press conference following talks with Prime Minister George Papandreou.

The European Council president ruled out the scenario of a debt restructuring, which has been the subject of feverish speculation recently, noting, ?Not only is it not on the agenda, it is out of the question.?

Van Rompuy stressed that Europe ?is not to blame? for the ?unavoidable changes? Greece is being obliged to make, noting these measures should have been implemented long ago and ?are in Greece?s long-term interest.? The official also expressed his confidence in the commitment of the government to pushing through key reforms and the privatization program.

But Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou told ruling party deputies at a meeting on Tuesday that the government will not present its midterm program of reforms until May 16 and probably will not vote on them until June.

Authorities are reportedly considering postponing privatization plans until an increase in the share prices of organizations including the Public Power Corporation (PPC). This could mean, however, that privatization will be put off until 2012.

Papandreou, who has been facing growing strife within the ranks of his party, avoided speaking about new reforms on Tuesday. Instead he focused on measures imposed to date, declaring that ?the efforts being made by Greek citizens are painful but 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, noting that ?the weaker social classes are suffering.?