NEWS

PM faces up to EU concerns

Prime Minister George Papandreou attempted to convince his European Union counterparts yesterday that Greece would get its economy into shape despite declaring that its debt had reached a record 300 billion euros. Papandreou traveled to the EU leaders summit in Brussels yesterday knowing that Europe’s spotlight has fallen on Greece as a result of its burgeoning debt and deficit. But the premier insisted that the country could recover. «We want to make it clear that we have a healthy and viable economy and a budget that foresees reining in spending and a reduction in debt,» he said, while also sending a message to EU leaders that the PASOK government will take the necessary steps to get the economy in order. With speculation mounting that Greece might have to be bailed out by its European partners, opinion seemed to be mixed as to how much the EU should get involved. «What happens in one member state affects all others, especially as we have a common currency, which means we have a common responsibility,» said German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said Greece’s problems were «basically a domestic problem and has to be addressed by domestic decisions.» The European Central Bank has come to the aid of weaker economies, such as Ireland’s, in the past but ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet told the Belgian daily De Tijd yesterday that Greece had to make «necessary and brave» decisions to restore confidence in its economy. Papandreou has suggested a rare meeting of Greek party leaders next Tuesday to discuss the economy and the fight against corruption. The leaders of the four opposition parties all indicated they are willing to take part in the talks.