NEWS

PM appeals for EU solidarity

As speculation mounted over the weekend about the type and level of support European Union leaders might decide to offer Greece when they convene in Brussels on Thursday, and about what other options Athens could consider, Prime Minister George Papandreou stressed the significance of the crisis threatening the country, and the eurozone as a whole. «Today is a historic turning point of the kind that occurs only every 30 or 40 years in a country,» Papandreou told the national council of his socialist PASOK party in Thessaloniki on Saturday. «Our main goal is no less than the country’s salvation,» he said, adding, «Greece will not go bankrupt.» In his speech, Papandreou appeared to indirectly criticize powerful EU member states, such as Germany, that are reluctant to throw their weight behind a rescue package for his debt-ridden government. «We have struggled for years to build a strong Europe that is economically stable and has social solidarity,» Papandreou said. «But many forces forget the political importance of the euro and overlook the essence of the political vision of the European project, which is a joint effort to develop our economy in a calm and stable climate,» he said. In a telephone conversation with Papandreou late last night, German Chancellor Angela Merkel reassured the Greek premier that «the EU is determined to undertake everything necessary to preserve the stability of the eurozone.» But earlier yesterday, Merkel had appeared less supportive, telling Deutschlandfunk radio station that the Greek crisis should not top the agenda of talks among EU leaders at Thursday’s summit. «I don’t think Greece needs money at the moment and the Greek government will confirm that,» she said, adding «…I don’t think the issue should be in the foreground [of the EU summit].» In sharp contrast, other EU leaders expressed their willingness to offer Greece support. «We are absolutely in favor,» Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was quoted as telling Reuters yesterday. Meanwhile, speculation about the possibility of Greece resorting to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was rekindled as the secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Angel Gurria, indicated that he thought such a move was «an alternative.» In an interview with Kathimerini, Gurria said, «I believe the best approach is a combination of support, funding and guarantees, and I see the IMF in this combination. You cannot emerge from this crisis on your own.»