PM raises standard

Against a backdrop of thousands of flag-waving demonstrators, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis last night inaugurated the country’s largest trade fair and started the arduous task of convincing voters that his government has the right potion for the country’s economy. Karamanlis kicked off the 70th Thessaloniki International Fair in northern Greece by saying the country has lifted its international presence in Europe and the region by investing in fields such as energy, tourism and shipping. «We are developing bilateral and multilateral agreements with all the countries in the region,» he said. «We are aiming to make the region an area of peace, growth and prosperity.» After 18 months of his party running the country, Karamanlis has been pushing structural reforms, saying this will help stoke economic growth in the future. This view is not shared by thousands of unionists who have gathered in Thessaloniki for the weekend to demonstrate against the government’s recent batch of economic changes. Labor law reforms, partial changes to the pension system and more flexible retail trade hours are among the issues union groups are protesting this weekend. Some 3,000 police from all over Greece have been taken to the northern city to help control demonstrators. However, law enforcers are also scheduled to take a break and demonstrate themselves over pay disputes. Sources say the prime minister will focus on reforms in his keynote economic speech this evening by saying the positive results will start appearing in a little over a year. He is also expected to announce how the government will help improve the operation of state-run enterprises which are often costly to run and bogged down in bureaucratic procedures. In response to the government’s economic policy, the Socialist opposition party PASOK released yesterday a 128-page booklet which outlines what they consider policy errors, forgotten promises and government blunders. PASOK opposition leader George Papandreou is scheduled to address the public at Thessaloniki next weekend.