NEWS

PM seeks backing on new measures

Prime Minister George Papandreou made a third attempt to secure a broad political consensus on his administration?s ongoing austerity drive on Friday, calling on the leaders of all opposition parties to offer their proposals following the unveiling of the government?s midterm fiscal program, which foresees new tax increases and deep cuts to the public sector.

?I call again on the leadership of all parties to cooperate,? Papandreou said in a televised speech from the Maximos Mansion.

?We must show that we are able to overcome party divisions,? the premier said, noting that cross-party cooperation would boost Greece?s position in talks with the European Union and International Monetary Fund, which last year pledged the country 110 billion euros in loans and are now discussing the possibility of a second bailout package.

Referring to a scheduled European Union summit in Brussels on June 23 and 24, where the issue of a second bailout for Athens is to be discussed, Papandreou said that Greece should display a united front. ?If we go to the negotiations with a program that has been broadly accepted, our position will be stronger and act as a guarantee to our partners,? he said.

The premier said the government is open to all viable proposals that ?can contribute to the fairer distribution of the burdens of this crisis.?

Papandreou sought to strike an optimistic tone, noting that there were already ?several points of convergence? between the different parties.

There was little evidence of common ground yesterday. A spokesman for New Democracy, Yiannis Michelakis, condemned the midterm program as ?unreliable, unfair and ineffective? and said the new raft of tax hikes was unacceptable.

The Communist Party (KKE) accused the government, and its foreign creditors, of ?throwing the Greek people deeper into the abyss of bankruptcy.?

The Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) described the midterm program as ?a clear admission of the failure of the first memorandum,? a reference to the pact signed between Greece and its international creditors in May last year.

The leader of the far-right Popular Orthodox Rally, Giorgos Karatzaferis, whose party voted for the memorandum last year, slammed Papandreou in Parliament. ?We will support nothing proposed by this government, which failed with the simple task last year and now is called to tackle an even more difficult task,? Karatzaferis said.