NEWS

Swords are crossed

The prime minister urged MPs yesterday to back his New Democracy government if they want to see progress, portraying it as a reformist and dynamic force in Greek politics ahead of a rare confidence vote in Parliament tomorrow. «Either you are with yesterday – in other words, with conservatism and reactionism – or you are with tomorrow – in other words, with reform and progress,» said Premier Costas Karamanlis, opening three days of parliamentary debate on the issue. He said ND will use the debate to particularly highlight the poor state in which PASOK left the economy when it handed over power to the conservatives after the general election in March 2004. The prime minister said that though the Greek government had accomplished several goals over the last 20 years – the bulk of which the Socialists ruled – it had not responded to the demands of a new era. Much of the dispute between the ND government and the main Socialist opposition centers around labor and social security reforms, which Karamanlis wants to introduce but which PASOK shied away from when in power. The prime minister also questioned the leadership of George Papandreou and the unity of the Socialist party. «PASOK has translated its internal disarray into a negative stance against any reforms,» Karamanlis said. «But this means you are oblivious to society’s problems. You are only bothered about your own [problems], which do not interest anyone.» Papandreou countered by calling the government’s record in power «pitiful.» He accused Karamanlis of basing his budget on false figures, increasing unemployment and inflation, cutting back on investment and destroying relations with the work force over pension reforms. «The government is implementing a Balkan Thatcherite model,» Papandreou said. «It is dividing and polarizing Greek society.» Meanwhile, the fire under the government’s pot of union troubles got hotter yesterday as the Federation of Bank Employees’ Unions (OTOE) said it would stage rolling 48-hour strikes from Monday through Thursday, when the country’s two main public (ADEDY) and private (GSEE) sector unions have called a nationwide strike. OTOE wants to block the government’s drive to push through reforms to bank workers’ pension system.