NEWS

PM, abroad, sees another country

As he ended a tour of the capitals of seven former Eastern bloc countries that have signed accession treaties with the European Union and will become members next May, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said that he had found these new partners had a high regard for Greece. But even as he prepared for his next visits to EU capitals later this week, Simitis also had to contemplate the fact that his government is under attack by some newspapers and the opposition over allegations that senior officials may have been too cozy with big business interests. Also, some 300 cadres of the ruling PASOK party gathered together on Saturday and declared that they had become a «Left Initiative.» In a communique, these current and former members of the Central Committee, including some backbenchers in Parliament, demanded «a change in government policy» and the «upgrading of the role of the party.» Most of them appeared to be adherents of the late party founder, Andreas Papandreou, and their communique also included mention of left-wing intellectuals. Simitis has shaken off such challenges in the past, but coming at the time they do, when the government has to deal with talk of scandal and also move toward carrying out reforms, the domestic turmoil is sure to rock PASOK in the near future. A Central Committee meeting is scheduled for May 27. The official opposition too kept up its attack. «The country is experiencing a serious lack of goverment,» New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis said on Lemnos yesterday. He said his party’s clash «with entangled interests was and remains full-frontal.» In a statement in Prague on Saturday, Simitis said: «I have visited seven new EU members. In all these countries, Greece’s standing is very high. They consider Greece a small country but one that has managed to reach high through the European Union and that is why they look to our experience, to the assistance Greece can offer.» This week Simitis is to visit new member Malta as well as Portugal and Spain, as part of his tour as leader of the country holding the EU presidency, in preparation of the summit in June.