PM opens PASOK National Council

In his keynote speech at the PASOK National Council that began on Saturday morning at the Faliro Sports Pavilion on the southern coast of Athens, Prime Minister George Papandreou tried to inject a sense of unity into his fragmented government, which has appeared split over the past few weeks in regards to contentious reforms that are the cornerstone of the debt-wracked country?s midterm austerity program.

Senior officials of the socialist party described Papandreou?s address as an effort to ?reboot? the party, which has come under fire for prevaricating over measures agreed with its creditors ? the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, or the so-called ?troika? ? in order for Greece to receive the sixth tranche of its first bailout package by the end of this month.

?Today, our party will extract the country from a state of supervision and dependence, and make it stand back on its own two feet,? Papandreou told a large gathering of PASOK officials and members.

?The citizens of this country will judge us in 2013 and until then not only will we have achieved to pull Greece out of the crisis, but we will have also completed the changes needed to lay the foundations for a new path in the future,? the prime minister said in a rejection of speculation regarding the possibility of the country going to snap elections.

In reference to the eurozone crisis, Papandreou called on the European Union formulate a ?new and dynamic growth strategy,? stressing that if things continue as they are, ?even with our austerity programs ? Greece, Ireland, Portugal and others ? will find themselves in great difficulties.?

The prime minister dedicated a good part of his address to express his support for a thorny education reform law that was voted through Parliament in late August with overriding support from the opposition New Democracy party, the rightwing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) and the center-right Democratic Alliance, and which has provoked strong reactions from politically affiliated student unions, the parties of the left and certain key members of the academic community.

?Whether they like it or not, universities will be opened up because they are no one?s fiefdoms. They are the property of the Greek people,? Papandreou said.

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