The ping-pong-type exchange of statements and retorts between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition has reached the level of the ridiculous. Almost before the former had finished describing the government’s new «social package,» the latter had already analyzed and rejected it. Simitis’s speech at the inauguration of the Thessaloniki International Fair was immediately followed by a response from Costas Karamanlis in Halkida (he must have his ear stuck to the radio all day). The prime minister had just finished announcing some new policies and plans during a press conference in the northern city when the television link switched to New Democracy’s headquarters in Athens, where Karamanlis was delivering his response to the premier’s proposals from a special podium positioned in front of a background in the party’s sky-blue colors. The same happened with the much-debated «charter (for real convergence)» – Simitis had taken up 40 minutes of airtime to plow through 136 pages merely describing the plan, when Karamanlis rejected and trashed it a moment afterward. The exchanges continued on Thursday when, to mark the start of the new academic year, Simitis visited a school with Education Minister Petros Efthymiou, where he felt it was appropriate to speak to students about the success of his government’s policy for «daycare schools.» Meanwhile, Costas Karamanlis, on a visit to another school, took the opportunity to criticize the premier’s comments in front of another student group.