NEWS

PM calls on EU to make a move

Prime Minister George Papandreou yesterday warned officials in Brussels that Greece will be forced to turn to the International Monetary Fund if European leaders fail to offer it a concrete rescue package at an EU summit next week. In what was interpreted by some as an ultimatum to EU member states, whose finance ministers offered only a vague plan for standby support for Greece earlier this week, Papandreou told the European Parliament that his government had made the requested sacrifices sought by the EU and was now expecting something in return. «We have taken measures that the IMF would have asked us to take. In fact, we are virtually under an IMF program. But we don’t have the facilities that the IMF could give,» Papandreou said. He added that Greece did not want to find itself «in a situation where we have the worst of the IMF and none of the advantages of the eurozone.» The premier said that a failure by the EU to present some kind of safety net, such as an offer of standby loans, could result in his government’s austerity measures – which include holiday pay cuts for civil servants and tax increases – not having the necessary impact. «If we keep borrowing at very high rates, and this is the challenge we have, we cannot sustain the deficit reduction that these hard measures aim to achieve,» Papandreou said. «We are asking our people – salaried workers and pensioners – to take a cut so that we can cut the deficit but that could be eaten up… in a few moments in speculation on the world markets,» the premier added. Later in Athens, Papandreou reiterated, during a Cabinet meeting, that Greeks are determined «to make it on our own.» «And we will make it, provided that our country can borrow on reasonable terms,» he said. The premier sought to douse feverish speculation suggesting that Greece is edging closer to an appeal to the IMF. «Based on those conditions, our country is not seeking and will not seek financial aid, either from our European partners or from the IMF, which would be our last resort,» he said.