NEWS

Samaras sticks to his guns in Brussels

The leader of the main conservative opposition New Democracy, Antonis Samaras, said on Friday that he had not shifted his stance in opposing the ?policy mix? of the government?s midterm economic program but he said his party would support some of the provisions of the bill which is to be voted on in Parliament next Wednesday.

In a written statement released by New Democracy late on Thursday, following the conclusion of talks between Samaras and center-right politicians in Brussels, Samaras said he had stuck by his position that the new raft of austerity measures being proposed by Greece?s Socialist government is ?a mistake? despite pressure from fellow members of the European People?s Party, a group of center-right political parties, to reconsider.

?I repeated our position that we agree with the targets for fiscal adjustment?but we disagree with the policy mix which has already led us into a deep and protracted recession? the statement added, referring to a series of tax increases the program foresees. The conservative leader stressed that his party was not against bold cuts in spending in the public sector and privatization. ?We have even pressed the government to do more on the level of privatization and the exploitation of state assets,? Samaras said.

?I insisted that the responsible approach is not to accept the mistake but to correct it,? Samaras added. However he suggested that his persistence had fallen mostly on deaf ears. ?Some people realized that we were right, others insisted on their positions.?

European officials have been urging Samaras to join Prime Minister George Papandreou in a broad political consensus backing the new austerity drive. The opposition leader is also facing increasing pressure from within the ranks of his party as some New Democracy lawmakers have differentiated their position from that of Samaras on the issue of the midterm program and consensus.