NEWS

PM wants minister to focus on task ahead

Prime Minister George Papandreou gathered his ministers on Tuesday, a day before a general strike, to urge greater unity in his government and to get them to commit to meeting the fiscal targets Greece has agreed with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Papandreou?s call for solidarity from his team came a day after Health Minister Andreas Loverdos challenged the prime minister?s authority by calling for a reshuffle and indicating that the government was not decisive enough.

Defense Minister Evangelos Venizelos appeared to add to the skepticism on Tuesday by saying that Greece?s economic problems were essentially political problems and stemmed from the lack of direction and unity. The one-time PASOK leadership candidate later told journalists that he was referring to the need for opposition parties, local politicians, unions and other institutions to pull in the same direction. But his comment was seen as another strike at the premier.

Tuesday?s cabinet meeting appeared to be as much an attempt for Papandreou to re-establish control over his ministers as it was an attempt to coordinate efforts in a week when EU and IMF officials are visiting Greece, unions are holding a 24-hour general strike and there is growing speculation about whether the government will apply for more loans from its creditors or restructure its debt.

?We are sending a message of belief in the country?s powers and determination to change Greece,? said Papandreou.

The premier admitted that the government has to be clearer and more effective in its actions. ?This will be the best response to those who doubt Greece?s progress or even bet on its failure,? he added.

Papandreou had repeated a similar message when he met President Karolos Papoulias earlier in the day. The sudden announcement of the meeting sparked speculation about the prime minister possibly calling snap elections but he moved quickly to douse the idea.

The Cabinet is due to meet again next week to discuss the revised version of Greece?s midterm fiscal plan, covering the period up to 2015. Finance Ministry officials have been revising the details of the plan, which is expected to be much more ambitious in the hope that it will meet with the approval of the EU and the IMF.