PM talks tough on corruption

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis stressed yesterday that he would be unwavering in his effort to combat corruption, presenting this as a war against an enemy that affects every aspect of life. «Society has learned that public sector corruption and entangled interests are a problem for every citizen, they benefit interests which live off state funds and push aside the majority of businessmen, creating an obstacle to investments,» he said. «We will not compromise, nor back down,» Karamanlis added in a speech to his party’s parliamentary group. «We were, and remain, totally against these decadent phenomena. We believed and still believe that this battle is everybody’s responsibility. This is a position of principle which is not negotiable,» he added. The prime minister’s language suggested that the apparent crusade against corruption is increasingly becoming a matter of personal pride. Speaking of his time as opposition leader, when PASOK was in government, Karamanlis said: «Four years ago I personally asked for a dialogue and an understanding so we could confront this problem (corruption) all together. Instead of a dialogue, I got a flat refusal. Instead of being given another answer, I was insulted.» Looking ahead, Karamanlis said his party would encourage development, reform the education system, restructure the economy and put public finances in order. He also announced the creation of a new government position for a team of MPs who would shadow ministers and act as middlemen between other MPs and ministries. Meanwhile, squabbles between PASOK and New Democracy also broke out during the drawing up of the parliamentary committee that will look into armament deals carried out under former PASOK foreign ministers Yiannos Papantoniou and Akis Tsochadzopoulos. Socialist MPs wanted an all-party committee presidency but lost out as three conservative MPs were voted president, vice president and secretary. PASOK also asked that the committee’s work be made public as the investigation progresses, but it looks likely that this will not happen either.