Constitution put up for review

Plans to reform the Greek Constitution were discussed yesterday when the prime minister met with the president as part of an effort to brief the country’s political leaders about what the premier called the government’s «biggest institutional initiative.» PM Costas Karamanlis visited President Karolos Papoulias at the Presidential Palace in Athens yesterday to brief him on the government’s intention to begin a process to reform the constitution. Karamanlis discussed the matter with Synaspismos Left Coalition leader Alekos Alavanos last week and plans to also hold talks with leader of the Communist Party Aleka Papariga tomorrow and PASOK head George Papandreou on Monday. This will conclude the premier’s contacts with the leaders of the parliamentary parties and will allow the house to begin debating what changes need to be made to the constitution. Any reforms will be voted in by the Parliament that will sit after the next general elections, which are due by 2008. The last review of the constitution was in 2001. «The review of the constitution is… the capping stone of the reforms which are progressing in every aspect of public life,» said Karamanlis. «It is also a prerequisite for adjustments in the state, economy, education and health sectors to produce the best results for the country and its citizens.» The prime minister did not reveal what changes to the constitution his government will be seeking. However, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos was a little more forthcoming. He suggested the debate would mainly revolve around the operation of private, non-profit universities in Greece; funding of political parties and candidates; the protection of the environment and whether MPs should be able to hold other jobs while they serve in Parliament. Karamanlis said that for the review to succeed, a «responsible, open and wide dialogue» would be needed. But PASOK appeared unimpressed by the government’s efforts to reach consensus. PASOK spokesman Nikos Athanassakis said the government was using the constitutional review to avoid confronting more immediate problems.

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