NEWS

PM treads softly with dissenters in PASOK

Prime Minister Costas Simitis opened a meeting of his PASOK party’s influential Central Committee yesterday with a speech that indicated a conciliatory approach to the party dissidents who prompted him to call an early congress in October. But he launched a blistering attack on the conservative New Democracy party, as he has done since his government retreated hastily in March from social security reforms it had proposed and which came under almost universal condemnation. The Central Committee meeting, which is aimed at preparing for the October congress, indicated that the differences remain between Simitis’s reformers and the cadres around Defense Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos, but it also showed that neither side is prepared to show its cards now. Simitis defended his government’s policies, which dissenters have claimed are alienating the party’s grassroots supporters, saying that he won a clear mandate in the elections of April 2000. It is a clear mandate for the establishment of a European future through the achievement of clear objectives, he said. We are perhaps the only country in Europe which achieved convergence (with the other EU members) without cutting but instead increasing social spending, Simitis said. Simitis charged that New Democracy is the party that equals political revanchism and national backwardness and remains the chief expression of economic interests. The response from New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis was swift, accusing Simitis of trying to sow discord among the Greeks.