NEWS

Leaders go in search of some common ground

After his government announced on Monday new tax and public spending measures and the beginning of its privatization program, Prime Minister George Papandreou will meet with leaders of the opposition parties on Tuesday in an attempt to satisfy the European Union?s demand that there should be some form of political consensus on the reforms.

All eyes will be on Papandreou?s morning meeting with New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras. He has already expressed his reluctance to give the government his blessing but it is his support that the EU is keen on obtaining. ND?s backing would allow key bills to be passed through Parliament with a qualified majority rather than just 151 of the 300 votes in the House, thereby allowing little room for criticism or political disputes.

?There does not have to be a detailed agreement but a political one relating to the political characteristics of the program,? EU Economy and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said on Monday.

Samaras argues the government should renegotiate the terms of its loan agreement with the EU and the International Monetary Fund, pointing to the less harsh measures in Portugal?s recent bailout deal. However, ND sources said that the conservative leader also realizes that he cannot afford to appear petty at a time when Greece is facing serious problems. It was noticeable that ND remained silent following yesterday?s announcement of new measures. The party has also refrained from commenting on interjections from abroad, such as calls for an independent agency to be set up to manage the privatization program.

Communist Party leader Aleka Papariga has said she will not attend the meeting with Papandreou, while the head of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), Alexis Tsipras, has made it clear he would not give the government his consent.