NEWS

Minister to defend crisis plan

Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou is due in Brussels today on a tough mission to convince his European counterparts that his government’s economic recovery plan contains the necessary provisions to curb the country’s gaping budget deficit and ensure that Greece does not become a burden on the rest of the eurozone. The crisis plan, officially called the Stability and Growth Program, was submitted last Friday to the European Commission, which is expected to provide its assessment by the middle of next month. In the meantime, Papaconstantinou is expected to face a barrage of questions from his counterparts in Brussels about the specific measures his government is planning to get Greek finances back on track. It is also expected that the minister will be questioned about statistics relating to the Greek economy, the credibility of which has been seriously eroded after it emerged that Greece’s budget deficit is 12.7 percent of gross domestic product, nearly twice the figure given by the previous conservative government in summer. In comments to the press over the weekend, Papaconstantinou reiterated that the PASOK government would do «everything that is necessary» to restore the country’s «huge credibility deficit.» His words were echoed by other prominent ministers, including Defense Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who said yesterday: «If we need to take additional measures, then we will take them but always with a sense of justice, always mindful of the needs of the great majority of Greek citizens.» One encouraging development over the weekend were the positive comments made by Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to the newspaper El Pais. «We must have faith in the Greek government. It has presented a credible program for the improvement of state finances,» Zapatero said. «I have faith in (Greek Prime Minister George) Papandreou,» he added.