NEWS

‘Wave of changes’ by 2006

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, in an interview with Kathimerini, denied plans for a cabinet reshuffle, rebuffed criticism of delays in the government’s work and promised to press ahead with a broad range of structural reforms this year. The PM said his main priorities for the immediate future would be to set major public construction works into movement, deregulate markets, proceed with new privatizations, reform public corporations, find a solution to the problem of bank social security funds, reform the working-hour system and boost new forms of tourism. Karamanlis denied that the government has been slow to implement specific policies since its election in March 2004, arguing that it had needed time to settle in. «I don’t feel that there have been delays, and I believe that people’s criticisms are an incentive for us to work faster,» he said. «I think ministers need sufficient time to be briefed, to plan and carry out the government’s work. We have only just entered the phase where major reforms are being implemented.» He insisted on the need to «rebuild the state,» to ensure that Greeks see tangible signs of improvement in their daily life. «But that will take time,» he added. «Joint authorities should be reduced as far as possible, so that the wheels of state can turn faster and more efficiently.» Karamanlis also pledged to press ahead with his party’s keystone anti-corruption drive, the main element of which – a new law barring media barons from access to state tenders through their other business concerns – has come under heavy fire from European Commission officials. «I believe in a free economy,» he said. «There is no free economy where the game is rigged, even to a certain extent or just in specific areas. I believe that this phenomenon is one of the reasons for the low level of investment.» On the tender law, the PM said that «we are seeking common ground, therefore certain amendments. What has not changed is the political decision and our stance on questions of transparency.» Turning to foreign policy, Karamanlis conceded that Turkey «does not appear to be shifting from its traditional stance,» adding that he wanted «as sincere a relationship as possible» with his Turkish counterpart.