NEWS

Venizelos defends PASOK’s role

PASOK guarantees the stability of Greece?s coalition government, its embattled leader Evangelos Venizelos said in an interview with Kathimerini on Sunday, though he refused to confirm whether the socialist party would commit front-line officials to Cabinet if the prime minister proceeds with a reshuffle.

?The government is only three-and-a-half months old and everyone?s attention is focused on negotiations about the measures,? Venizelos said with reference to the forthcoming 13.5-billion-euro austerity package demanded by the so-called troika of foreign lenders.

?PASOK serves as a guarantor for a greater strategy. Should this come off and pay off, then we will begin to feel vindicated,? he said, skirting the question of whether socialist cadres might get government posts in a new scheme.

Speculation of a government reshuffle intensified last week after Prime Minister Antonis Samaras admitted to ?problems? and ?omissions? in the conservative-led administration.

Venizelos, who served as finance minister in the George Papandreou administration, has unsuccessfully tried to bolster the credibility of the increasingly divided Socialists. A VPRC poll last week ranked PASOK at sixth place with a scant 5.5 percent support.

In his interview with Kathimerini, Venizelos also tried to repair some of the political damage caused by his handling of the so-called ?Lagarde list? — a digital file containing the names of some 2,000 Greeks with accounts in a Swiss bank who are being investigated for tax evasion. Venizelos has come under fire for failing to act on the data as finance minister.

?[The list] was in the hands of the responsible authorities who had a mandate to make use of the information, before I took over [as finance minister] and before I was even briefed on the issue.?

Venizelos defended PASOK?s record in clamping down on tax evasion, alleging that both he and the party were being ?targeted? for political reasons.