Consensus all too brief

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday called on opposition parties to help build «the broadest consensus possible» on issues of both domestic and foreign policy and indicated that he was open to a wide-ranging debate about the most important issues of concern to the country. Karamanlis made his overture during the debate on the ratification of the European Constitution. Ratification was supposed to take place by a show of hands late last night, but, at the end, it was decided to postpone the vote for Tuesday night and to vote by roll call. Ratification is certain, since both the governing New Democracy party and the opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) are in favor. The two leftist parties will vote against, for different reasons: The Communist Party is against the European Union on principle, while the pro-European Synaspismos Left Coalition objects to the constitution’s tilt in favor of free market policies. Opposition leader George Papandreou said that his party would prefer a referendum in order to better inform citizens, through public debate, of the changes the constitution introduces. Emphasizing the agreement of the two largest parties on the subject, Papandreou praised the late Constantine Karamanlis, uncle of the present prime minister, who, as PM himself, pushed for Greece’s entry into the EU over the objections of the late Andreas Papandreou, the opposition leader’s father. Greece joined what was then the European Community in 1981. Consensus between the two parties, however, ended there. As the debate widened to include current foreign policy developments, including the dispute over the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the recent diplomatic imbroglio with Turkey, Karamanlis launched an attack on the previous PASOK government’s foreign policy. «Consensus is built, not usurped,» Papandreou said after criticizing the government’s handling of current affairs. The search was not helped by the ruling party’s procedural tricks, which allowed Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas to inject himself in the debate, reserved to party leaders, in order to attack Papandreou and denying the latter the right to reply.

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