Speaking to German business leaders in Berlin on Tuesday morning ahead of a crucial meeting scheduled later in the day with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou called for ?inspiration, innovation and motivation,? adding that Europe in investing in a ?different Greece.?
The Greek premier told the German Industry Alliance that Greece has already made significant progress in streamlining its finances and facilitating foreign investment in areas such as renewable energy resources, saying that Athens has also invited technical assistance from its foreign partners to help it further reorganize its labyrinthine public sector and to slash red tape.
Responding to calls from European media and officials suggesting that Greece has been lagging in pushing through reforms agreed in June with its creditors ? the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund ? for the disbursement of a sixth, 8-billion-euro loan tranche, Papandreou called the criticism ?frustrating,? adding that Greece is ?not looking for applause; simply for respect of the facts,? saying that the country was pushing through in a short period of time changes that normally require years.
The Greek prime minister also said that ?when asked where European taxpayers? money is going, I say ?we are borrowing to repay? we are investing in our strengths.??
In reference to the reforms the Greek government has already imposed, including cutbacks to public sector salaries and benefits, and an extraordinary tax on private revenue, Papandreou noted that the ?drastic measures are having a dramatic effect? on the people of Greece, as, in Athens, Parliament was preparing to vote on a controversial bill to impose an emergency property tax on all homeowners in Greece.
If the people of Greece ?feel only punishment and scorn,? Papandreou said, ?we will fail… What we need is inspiration, innovation and motivation,? he said.
?You cannot change a country overnight,? Papandreou told his audience, which received his address with rapturous applause, saying that Greece, a country with the economic size of Essen cannot and should not be held solely responsible for the European sovereign crisis.
?We European partners must stop blaming each other for institutional failings,? Papandreou said, echoing demands from the markets for a comprehensive European Union policy toward the eurozone crisis and calling for more oversight.
?If we did not have a European Union we would have to invent it, because none of us can face this challenge alone,? Papandreou said in reference to increased pressure from international financial markets on European economies.