PM pushes reforms as ND strife grows
Prime Minister George Papandreou yesterday had a series of meetings in New York in a bid to bolster Greece’s battered image abroad and drum up interest in investments that will bring much-needed liquidity into the debt-ridden economy. In a speech at the New York Stock Exchange, Papandreou said his country had taken «unprecedented and difficult steps to tackle the crisis» and was making «real progress in fulfilling its commitments» to its international creditors, which in May promised Greece 110 billion euros in loans in exchange for a raft of austerity measures. The Greek premier stressed that his administration was «on track» with its efforts to reduce a gaping budget deficit and push through long-delayed reforms. He said the changes would create «new opportunities for investments in transport, tourism and the development of the green economy.» On the political level, Papandreou had meetings with US Vice President Joe Biden and with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. With the latter, Papandreou discussed the possibility of Iran playing a stabilizing role in the Middle East. With Biden, talks were to focus on regional politics and Greece’s economic reforms. In Athens, meanwhile, a few days after main conservative opposition party New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras decried the PASOK government for its reforms and austerity drive, the expulsion of an MEP affiliated with ND from the party’s parliamentary group suggested more internal strife within the ranks of the troubled party. Theodoros Skylakakis, a close aide of former Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, was expelled from the grouping for questioning Samaras’s assertion that ND’s proposals for economic policy could plug the country’s budget deficit by the end of 2011. Skylakakis also objected to Samaras’s claim that Greece needn’t have entered a multi-billion-euro loan agreement with its creditors and that many of the austerity measures imposed by ruling PASOK could have been avoided. The MEP accused Samaras of «making false promises to the people.» Asked whether he would join the new political party that Bakoyannis is expected to form in the coming weeks, Skylakakis said he had no firm plans.