NEWS

The challenge of 2004 is here

Party leaders set out their priorities For years, 2004 has loomed ahead like a mountain in Greece’s future, full of promise and challenge. Now it is upon us, the year that will host the Athens 2004 Olympics and national elections. It is a year that will change Greece. And this was reflected in the New Year messages of Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Costas Karamanlis, whose PASOK and New Democracy parties will play the leading role in elections which increasingly look as if they will be held in mid-March. Although both the socialist PASOK and conservative New Democracy are very much in the center of the political spectrum, their leaders present the coming elections as a watershed in Greece’s politics. But the elections have prompted another great change: the apparent departure of Simitis from the leadership of PASOK to make way for his foreign minister, George Papandreou, the grandson of a prime minister and the son of party founder and Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou. Simitis is expected to announce the succession procedure officially next week. In his New Year message, the prime minister declared: «Let us dare what is new. Let us go further forward and not back.» He defended his two terms in office. «The Greek people showed confidence in me to lead our country to a new era. I am proud of the work we have achieved. But, despite the fact that today we are in a much better state than we were in 1996 or 2000, the modernization of the country, the effort to achieve a society of prosperity and justice is not yet complete,» Simitis said. «2004 is a crucial year for the course of our society. It is the year that will judge whether Greece will follow the road of development and social justice with even greater determination,» he added. «2004 is a crucial year for advertising our country. It is the year of the Athens Olympics, the year in which all humanity will turn its eyes to Greece, a small but dynamic country.» He also stressed that the year would be crucial for Greece’s foreign relations, especially regarding relations with Turkey and efforts to solve the Cyprus problem. Karamanlis also spoke of the year’s challenges and the Olympics. «2004 dawns as a year of responsibility,» he said. «The demand for change comes from all sides today. It goes beyond ideological and political preferences,» he added. «In 2004, the immediate target of all Greeks is the absolute success of the Olympic Games. This is a great moment for our country and I want to assure you that, as far as we are concerned, nothing will disturb the preparations.» Regarding the economy, he said, «We propose a new economic policy, based on liberal choices and social solidarity.»