NEWS

PM hopes for eurozone solution

Prime Minister George Papandreou is hoping that Thursday?s eurozone summit will lead to leaders agreeing on a long-term solution for Greece?s debt problem as he ruled out the possibility of bankruptcy.

Speaking to Sunday?s Kathimerini, Papandreou suggested that eurozone leaders have accepted the need to ease Greece?s debt burden.

?It is the first time that Europe has recognized and has placed on the table the issue of reducing the debt burden on the Greek people,? he said. ?This alone is a very positive development.?

Although it is not yet clear what might be agreed at the summit, the idea of Greece being lent money from the European Financial Stability Facility to buy back its bonds at market rates, thereby reducing its debt load, has dominated the debate over the past few days.

?We are at the stage of evaluating the best possible solutions,? said Papandreou. ?Solutions that do not cause side effects.?

Last week, credit rating agencies said that some forms of private sector involvement in a second bailout package for Greece would be classified as a ?selective default.? This prompted Cabinet to debate the possible impact of such a development. It also sparked a war of words with New Democracy, which rejected the possibility of any form of default.

?Those that are playing with the meaning of words in order to create panic are either irresponsible or are playing with fire,? said Papandreou.

However, the prime minister said that his government flatly rejects an all-out default. ?We have managed to stave of bankruptcy and there is no way Greece will default,? he said. ?Instead, we are now trying to find a way to give Greece a long-term debt breather.?

Papandreou rounded on New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras for failing to support the medium-term fiscal plan, passed through Parliament last month. Samaras favors an approach that would involve tax cuts rather than hikes. His party is also opposed to the sacking of public servants, suggesting that they should be placed on paid ?gardening leave? instead.

?He has the luxury of being politically irresponsible because we have acted responsibly, ensuring that our country is not drawn into adventures,? said the prime minister.

Some opposition politicians have called for any new loan agreement with the EU and the International Monetary Fund to require a qualified majority of 180 votes in the 300-seat Parliament. But Papandreou said that he has no intention of adding this proviso.

?We will not endanger the future of the country and our children just because others have chosen to score points from the safety of their own positions,? he said.