NEWS

PM reaches out for consensus

Prime Minister George Papandreou yesterday called on opposition party leaders to meet him next Tuesday for talks aimed at establishing consensus as his beleaguered government tries to push through more unpopular reforms. The premier made his appeal in Parliament ahead of what is certain to be a difficult week, with several days of planned strike action and a European Union summit scheduled for Thursday and Friday at which EU leaders are to discuss the creation of a permanent support mechanism for debt-ridden member states. Most of the strikes planned for next week are by workers protesting draft laws affecting labor rights and pay at public enterprises – bills due to be voted through Parliament on Tuesday. Papandreou stressed that the bills were a crucial part of his government’s reform effort but that he was willing to discuss aspects of it with opposition leaders. «I am ready for cooperation,» Papandreou said. «We are open to constructive proposals,» he added. Earlier in the week, the premier had talks with the visiting managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who called on opposition parties to set aside their differences and support difficult reforms aimed at saving the Greek economy. Opposition leaders appeared far from amenable yesterday. During a session of the main conservative opposition New Democracy party, its leader Antonis Samaras accused the government of imposing harsh decisions on its people. «Without dialogue or consensus, without any serious planning and despite serious party infighting, the government is pushing through legislation that radically changes the terms by which millions of Greeks live,» Samaras said. Giorgos Karatzaferis, the head of the far-right Popular Orthodox Struggle (LAOS), struck a similar tone. «You did not approach us for dialogue. You just presented us with a piece of harsh legislation,» Karatzaferis said, referring to the labor rights bill. Alexis Tsipras, head of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), accused Papandreou of «transforming MPs into stooges.» The leader of the Communist Party (KKE), Aleka Papariga, called Papandreou’s administration «the most dangerous government since the restoration of democracy,» and accused it of «creating medieval working conditions.»