Domestic concerns take priority

With the clock ticking down to a European Union leaders? summit on Sunday, when Greece?s debt problems will top the agenda, Prime Minister George Papandreou is due to meet New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras and hold talks with the Cabinet on Tuesday.

Papandreou is attempting to create a united front, or at least give the impression that there is one, before the talks with his EU counterparts. ?We all have a duty to the homeland and the Greek people to display a united front, calmness and clear minds so that we can have the best possible result on Sunday,? said Papandreou after meeting President Karolos Papoulias on Monday.

However, Tuesday?s meeting with Samaras is not expected to produce any notable developments. Sources at ND insisted that the two sides were so far apart that snap elections were the only way to settle their political differences.

?Mr Papandreou has already decided everything,? said ND spokesman Yiannis Michelakis. ?He has taken measures, accepted things and made up his mind. If Mr Samaras had agreed on and supported these policies, would the country?s revenues suddenly increase, its spending decrease and privatizations take place??

In fact, the conservatives were showing a keener interest in the internal machinations at PASOK following the decision of Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou, Health Minister Andreas Loverdos and Transport Minister Yiannis Ragousis to publish a joint statement on Sunday, which urged Papandreou to speed up reforms and take on the labor unions.

ND views the initiative by the three ministers as a clear attempt to single themselves out as the leading reformers within PASOK and to jump to the front of the queue of any leadership contest within the Socialist party.

Papandreou came under further pressure on Monday when Thessaloniki MP Thomas Robopoulos resigned. The latest austerity bill is due to be voted on in Parliament on Thursday and the deputy said he could no longer ?vote without knowing what I am voting for.?

Robopoulos?s resignation will not cause PASOK to lose one of its 154 seats in Parliament as he will be replaced by another Socialist candidate, Voula Tektonidou. However, ex-Labor Minister Louka Katseli made it clear that she would vote against Article 37 of the bill, which suspends sector-specific collective labor contracts.

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