NEWS

Tough task for government

What have been your most serious mistakes? Was one of then not holding elections in 1991 or even in 1992? [Then-] President Constantine Karamanlis was not in agreement. Perhaps I should have ignored him and gone ahead. My government had a very small majority in Parliament. We were facing a number of accumulated problems in the economy and at great cost we managed to put it on the right path. We were also dealing with the problem over the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. From the outset, I was in favor of a moderate stance and Karamanlis was with me on that. In fact, he was furious about the public rallies [against the use by FYROM of the name «Republic of Macedonia»]. But when the time came to make a decision, Karamanlis backed down. The conversation was so heated and we were shouting so loudly that when I left his office, his secretary asked me why we had been fighting. I had a solution, I returned triumphantly from Europe because I had got an agreement there and I had to hold elections. That is what happened and I am sorry that later governments did not openly suggest the middle way. The result is that today everyone is calling that country the «Republic of Macedonia.» Was it a mistake to appoint Antonis Samaras as foreign minister? Yes, it was a mistake on my part. He was too young for that portfolio. I am against taking Samaras back into the ND, not for personal reasons but for political and ethical reasons. I have never had any personal differences with anyone, not even Andreas Papandreou. Samaras will drive more people away from ND than he will bring in. But it is also a question of ethics. You can’t, in the fight against vested interests, have as your standard bearer the person who brought down a legitimate government in order to serve those interests. It was also wrong of me to resign from the party leadership after the 1993 elections. I had said that I would, however, and so I kept my promise. I always keep my promises. And if ND wins the elections? An ND government will face serious problems and it will have to deal with stiff opposition. For example, in the economy, tourism is the sector in which we have almost an absolute comparative advantage. However, we cannot develop tourism if we don’t first resolve the problems of land and land use, a problem that has been around for 180 years. In addition, there is the problem of agricultural lots. Perhaps it might be necessary to amend the inheritance law, so the land can not be split up beyond a certain limit. Related to this is the problem of construction limits. At the moment there is complete anarchy – anyone can built whatever they want, wherever they want. There is the mistaken impression that these measures will harm the environment. On the contrary. They will introduce order and protect the environment. These are the reasons we cannot draw up a land register. Perhaps the most important thing is to remove the taboos in the economy and in society, to break with the establishment and abolish the party state PASOK is leaving in its wake. I have no doubt that Costas Simitis intended to make considerable structural reforms. He came into conflict with the «deep PASOK,» he did not dare to break with it and this brought about his fall. I wish George Papandreou were able to, but I am sure he isn’t. The only solution is political change, not because ND can work miracles, but because political change has a deep political content and will at least stem the decline. That is why I am passionately fighting for political change. An ND government will have to face the specter of the presidential election. I don’t think there will be a problem. No one wants elections in 2005. George Papandreou will need at least four years in opposition to be able to deal with the problems caused by defeat and in order to reorganize his party. There will be agreement, with a common candidate. Are you interested in being that candidate? No, I am not. I will help as much as I can, but I do not want to become president and I will not. Will Stefanos Manos and Andreas Andrianopoulos be on the ND ticket in March? I don’t know if they will be candidates. But either way, both Manos and Andrianopoulos are assets for ND and they must be ministers in an ND government. Please write that down.