NEWS

EU pact main policy goal, PM says

The prime minister of the country?s new interim government, Lucas Papademos, on Monday stressed that the chief aim of his administration is to implement the decisions of an October 26 European Union summit, where the latest debt deal for Greece was agreed, and to secure the next tranche of rescue aid without which the country risks defaulting and being ejected from the eurozone.

Triggering a debate which is to culminate in a confidence vote in the new government on Wednesday, the speech set out the administration?s policy platform without any surprises. The key goals are to make good on commitments to foreign creditors, secure crucial aid and resume talks negotiations to receive further loans, Papademos said.

He added that he foresaw no new austerity measures before 2013 but that it was important that measures Greece has agreed to — including cutbacks in the state sector and the opening of closed professions — are implemented without delay.

?The task of this government is disproportionately large compared to the time it will have in power, so we must not delay,? Papademos said in his first speech in Parliament.

The former banker, who has served as vice president of the European Central Bank, added that he had accepted the invitation to assume the role of interim premier because ?Greece?s position in the eurozone is at stake.?

The premier also requested the ?commitment? of party leaders in the new three-member coalition, apparently referring to a demand by EU officials for Greek political leaders to provide written guarantees accepting the terms of the new rescue program.

?This should not be seen as the demand of faceless institutions,? Papademos said. ?The guarantees are chiefly for our own national interest but are also a duty to the nations which are showing us solidarity.?

The premier?s comments came just a few hours after EU officials pressed their demands for reassurances as conservative New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras continued to resist them.

A spokesman for European Monetary and Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn, Amadeu Altafaj, suggested that Brussels would not take no for an answer. ?We continue to wait for a clear and unequivocal expression — in writing — about the engagement of the responsible political forces in Greece to the decisions taken on October 26,? Altafaj said.

Meanwhile sources said that representatives of Greece?s foreign creditors — the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary fund, known collectively as the troika — would probably return to Athens for talks with government officials at the end of this week. At the end of last week, the troika were expected back in the capital on Monday.

In his parliamentary speech, the new premier also sought to show that he was aware of the impact of the debt crisis on Greeks. ?Social cohesion is being tested, and people feel dismayed as, despite their sacrifices, the progress of efforts to tackle the crisis remains uncertain,? he said. But he insisted that there was hope. ?There will come a time when the collective effort will start paying off and there will be a break in the recession,? he said.

The PM said he viewed his administration?s term as ?a bridge to carry the country to economic recovery.? But he said he needed help to succeed. ?I cannot complete this mission alone.?