PM, president express hope for new year

The new year will be a «watershed» for Greece, according to Prime Minister George Papandreou who has expressed confidence that his government can revive the country’s fortunes in 2010. Papandreou said: «2009 leaves our country at a difficult and crucial juncture. Beyond the problems with our public finances, the general course that our economy has taken, we also suffered erosion of the many possibilities that our homeland possesses. «Despite the admittedly major progress our country has made in recent decades, there were few times when we challenged ourselves and on even fewer occasions did we face up to Greece’s major ills and chronic problems.» Papandreou said that one of the biggest challenges Greece faces this year is the restoration of its credibility, both at home, where faith in institutions such as Parliament and the justice system is diminishing, and abroad, where the country’s failure to provide reliable financial data has prompted criticism from its European Union counterparts. «We want 2010 to be a watershed, a year of significant, bold and just decisions as well as major changes and reversals,» said Papandreou in his New Year’s message. «I am sure that together we will be able to open a new, hopeful and optimistic chapter in the history of our country.» January will be a crucial month for the government as it must submit its draft for the Stability and Growth Plan to Brussels on Monday. Two days after that, officials from the European Commission and the European Central Bank will visit Athens to hold talks about whether the measures that the government will include in its economic plan for 2010 will be enough to put Greece’s ailing economy back on the road to recovery. President Karolos Papoulias, who welcomed a host of dignitaries at the Presidential Palace in Athens yesterday for a traditional New Year’s gathering, shared in Papandreou’s optimism, saying that Greeks’ «fighting spirit» would ensure the country recovers. «We will make it but the problem will be to ensure that there is balance and that the weaker members of our society are not affected,» said Papoulias. «We will make it though; others have been through difficult situations and with fewer strengths than us.»

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