NEWS

PM declares state of ‘war’

One day after a poll showed the ruling conservatives to have lost most of their popularity lead over Socialist PASOK, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday said his government was fighting «a war» and proposed to win it. The PM, who was speaking to journalists after a meeting with visiting European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, did not elucidate after declaring that «we have picked the tough path. This is not just a battle. It is a war, and we will win it.» Government sources, however, argued that he was referring to the government’s keystone anti-corruption drive, a basic element of which was the controversial law passed on January 20 that bars media barons from accessing lucrative public contracts. On the record, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos would only say that «the government is at war with people’s everyday problems,» which was echoed by Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos – who drafted the tender law. Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis, on the other hand, said the government was not at war with anyone. The Metron Analysis poll, published in the pro-opposition Sunday Ethnos, found that New Democracy was just 1.4 percent ahead of PASOK, down from 4 percent in February and 7.7 percent last May. PASOK shot back at the PM’s «bellicose» statement, with party spokesman Nikos Athanassakis saying that «the question is on whom they are waging war.» Party leader George Papandreou, speaking after a meeting with Barroso, accused ND of «opening pointless fronts, which results in a decline in our international prestige.» To a great extent, Papandreou was referring to the tender law, which the European Commission has rejected as incompatible with EU internal market regulations. Quizzed on the matter yesterday, Barroso said he «honestly hopes» the matter can be settled without Greece being hauled before the European Court of Justice. He said the Commission has noted that the law is «not fully compatible» with EU law, adding that Brussels was preparing a letter to Greece setting out its counterarguments to the legal defense of the law presented by Athens on April 6. Addressing Parliament later in the day, Barroso conceded that the law’s rationale was correct. On the same matter, Karamanlis said Greece is seeking «common ground» with the EC on the new law. Meanwhile, the Commission chief praised the government for its efforts to tame the rampant budget deficit, expressing confidence that plans to fully accomplish that target will succeed.