NEWS

‘Leave us in peace,’ pleads Papandreou

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou has pleaded with international community to let his government get on with the task of reducing its debt and sorting out its public finances without piling on extra pressure.

However, it was a member of Papandreou?s own PASOK party, European Marine Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki, who added fuel to the fire on Wednesday by claiming that discussions are already taking place at an EU-level about Greece?s possible exit from the eurozone.

“It is a Greek responsibility to deal with our own crisis first and foremost,» Papandreou told a forum at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris on Wednesday.

Addressing a roundtable to mark the OECD?s 50th anniversary, Papandreou underlined that despite press reports, Greece had «impressive results in a year: it decreased the deficit by 5 percent and the primary deficit by 7.2 percent, while there are forecasts for a primary surplus in 2012, thanks to the drastic measures.”

He also noted that in the first quarter of 2011 growth rates became positive, while over the past 5-6 months exports increased on a monthly basis and on an average of 35 percent.

Papandreou concluded his address by asking for breathing space for his government to carry out the reforms that the EU and the International Monetary Fund have demanded.

“Leave us in peace. We know that we have problems. Leave us in peace to work,» he said.

However, hopes that his government might enjoy a few days free of speculation were dashed by Damanki?s statement.

?The greatest achievement of postwar Greece – the euro and the country?s European course – are in danger,? she said in a statement. ?The scenario of Greece distancing itself from the euro is on the table.

?We either agree with our creditors on a program of tough sacrifices that brings results, and assume the responsibilities for our past, or we return to the drachma.?

A spokesman for Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn denied there had been any talks about Greece leaving the euro.

Damanaki?s comments were criticised by both members of the ruling PASOK party and by the opposition.

Speaking to Skai Radio on Thursday morning, Former Agriculture Minister Katerina Batzeli suggested that the Greek commissioner?s comments were ?more than unhelpful? and that journalist should speak to Damanaki directly to get an explanation for why she put out her statement.

New Democracy spokesman Yiannis Michelakis was also critical of Damanaki. ?Not only do dilemmas such as ?in Europe or out of Europe? not help, they create confusion and seriously damage the country,? he said.