NEWS

PM seeks to build momentum

In a bid to capitalize on the positive mood and momentum created by Greece?s agreement last week for a second support package from the eurozone, Prime Minister George Papandreou is going to step up the pressure on his ministers to progress with reforms over the next few weeks.

Papandreou has written to all his ministers asking them to be able to show results by the end of August, ahead of fresh negotiations with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund and his appearance at the Thessaloniki International Fair on September 10, when he will unveil key economic measures, including a growth strategy.

To do this, his government will have to be on track in terms of meeting the target set by the midterm fiscal plan, passed last month. This is the only way that Greece can secure continued funding from the EU and the IMF.

The prime minister will hold cabinet meetings today and tomorrow in a bid to settle a number of outstanding issues, including a bill on illegally built properties and referendums for constitutional reform and on cleaning up Greek soccer.

The government will also attempt to defuse its standoff with the taxi drivers, which has threatened to cause a rift within the ruling PASOK party. Papandreou is keen to close as many open wounds as possible within PASOK so the government can focus on the reforms it needs to carry out and because he wants to use the securing of the eurozone deal as a springboard for winning back the support of the public.

Papandreou is due to meet with opposition leaders tomorrow to brief them on the eurozone negotiations. Sources suggested that the government, buoyed by the outcome of talks in Brussels, feels that it can adopt a more aggressive stance toward New Democracy, which has been highly critical of its handling of the economy. The conservatives intend to focus their criticism on the government?s failure to meet its targets, the difficulties in the real economy and any disagreements within PASOK.