NEWS

Scant political consensus

The spirit of cooperation evident in Brussels in the early hours of yesterday morning, when European Union finance ministers agreed on a 750-million-euro support mechanism to ensure the Greek economic crisis does not spread, was absent from a meeting of party leaders in Athens, who failed to agree on the details of how Greece should tackle its problems. Of the five parliamentary parties, only Prime Minister George Papandreou, New Democracy president Antonis Samaras and the leader of the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), Giorgos Karatzaferis, attended the meeting. Communist Party (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga and her counterpart from the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), Alexis Tsipras, boycotted the talks. Although there was some consensus among the three leaders, such as the need to reform the political system, they failed to agree on the details of how this could be achieved. There were suggestions, for instance, that the number of MPs should be reduced from 300 to 200 but the government seems to favor a cut to 250. However, Papandreou said that this would come as part of a wider electoral reform package and he reminded Samaras that ND has already opposed the ideas put forward on this subject by PASOK. Samaras and Papandreou also agreed that MPs finances should be more rigorously scrutinized but the ND leader suggested that this should be done by chartered accountants, whereas the premier believes the task should be handed to the state agency that investigates money laundering. The conservative leader suggested that his party would be more amenable to working with the government if it dropped its plans to grant second-generation immigrants Greek citizenship and overhaul local government by merging dozens of municipalities. Papandreou said he would not abandon these schemes. President Karolos Papoulias, who chaired the talks, made it clear that Greece’s political system is existing on borrowed time. «This is not the time for arguing, it is time for effective policies and dynamic intervention,» said Papoulias, who encouraged the leaders to agree on tougher sanctions for politicians, including removing their immunity from prosecution and greater transparency in politics by publishing parties’ accounts and reducing their public funding.