NEWS

German election hailed

The Greek government yesterday hailed the re-election of Gerhard Schroeder and his coalition in Germany as a «guarantee» for Europe’s future. Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s PASOK party had placed great importance on the German election, not least because Greece’s Socialists take heart from the victory of related parties in Europe. But Athens was also concerned that a Christian Democratic government in Germany could affect Greece’s effort to push social policies in its term as president of the EU in the first half of 2003 and could also affect Cyprus’s EU accession. Simitis called Schroeder from Copenhagen, where he is attending a summit of European and Asian leaders. «The prime minister saluted the electoral victory of the governing coalition of the SPD and Green parties,» the prime minister’s office announced. «The prime minister expressed his belief that the re-election (of Schroeder) constitutes a guarantee for Europe’s stable course ahead with social justice and social cohesion.» Schroeder, responding to a question, had preceded Simitis’s telephone call with the comment that «Mr Simitis’s voice has special significance among those of our European counterparts.» Simitis also called German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, leader of the Greens. «He congratulated him for the decisive contribution his party made to yesterday’s victory of the ruling coalition,» the statement said. Foreign Minister George Papandreou also hailed the German government’s re-election. «We know well the leaders of this coalition,» he said, adding that Fischer «beyond being a personal friend is a friend of Greece.» Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos noted that «the difficulties that conservative groups are facing in governing European countries have come to influence citizens.» Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis chose not to dwell on how close the election was, saying that «in politics the winner is the one who insists on clear positions.» Government spokesman Christos Protopappas tied Schroeder’s victory with that of Goran Persson in Sweden a week earlier. «The theory that held sway until recently that we have a conservative revival is not valid,» he exulted.