PM lauds eurozone deal, challenges opposition

Prime Minister George Papandreou has hailed the agreement Greece achieved with fellow eurozone members on a second, improved rescue package as a victory for the Greek people and a moment of personal vindication for himself.

Speaking in a televised address at the start of a cabinet meeting on Friday, Papandreou began by lauding the Greek people, who have endured more than a year of austerity measures, for the part they played in the new deal being agreed.

He said it was ?a vindication of our efforts, of the efforts of a whole nation that found itself close to collapse due to the errors of the past,? and thanked Greeks for their ?patience, persistence and self-sacrifice.?

?I want all of you to be proud of what we are, for our struggle, for our country,? added Papandreou. ?Your sacrifices have not gone to waste.?

However, the prime minister also suggested that the deal agreement in Brussels on Thursday had vindicated his stance.

?This struggle over the last few months was a big personal bet,? he said. ?I took part in this struggle with no regard for myself, often confronting criticism that was disproportionate to my share of the responsibility for the country?s problems.?

Papandreou had in recent weeks publicly pressured eurozone leaders to come up with an assistance package that would help alleviate the pressure on Greece. President Karolos Papoulias greeted Papandreou during a meeting between the pair on Friday afternoon by saying: ?Prime Minister, a historic moment. Europe woke up.?

The premier warned his Cabinet against complacency in the wake of the agreement. Greece will need its next tranche of emergency funding in September and is likely to have to agree to new fiscal measures by then.

?All will go to waste if we don?t continue with our reforms program. Greece will change,? he said. ?We want a different Greece and once the changes are implemented, we will have a different Greece,? Papandreou said, referring to a raft of austerity measures and reforms that were voted through Parliament last month.

Papoulias also noted that ?the time has come for the work that needs to be done to start.? ?From this point on, we all have to get down to work,? responded Papandreou.

Papandreou also used the opportunity to fire broadsides at the opposition parties, particularly New Democracy, who he accused of ?hypocrisy, populism, conspiracy theories and endless criticism.? But he did indicate that he was open to the prospect of finding common ground.

?Despite our constant appeals, New Democracy missed out on the opportunity to take part in this national effort,? he said. ?It bet on failure in order to benefit as a party. I hope that all the parties that followed this tactic will be able to draw conclusions from their failed opposition and will in the future contribute to the national effort.?

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