OPINION

Papandreou’s chance to shine

The decision by Socialist International (SI) to elect PASOK leader George Papandreou as its new president for the next three years is certainly an honor for him and for our country. Moreover, the fact that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis postponed a Cabinet reshuffle so it would not clash with SI’s decision heralds a new political culture. For its part, PASOK did all it could to exploit Papandreou’s election to the helm of the worldwide organization of socialist parties to boost the opposition leader’s popularity. But now that the curtain has gone down on the SI council’s conference in Athens, the real question is how Papandreou is going to handle his new role. Of course, the «easy» way forward would be for the PASOK chief to exploit his new post to forge high-level contacts on the international stage under the media spotlight. But this approach would have limited benefits; after all, Greek voters are well aware that Papandreou already has a rich network of international contacts due to his long career at the head of the Foreign Ministry. So Papandreou’s challenge lies in a different area. Indeed, he outlined it himself in his acceptance speech when he prioritized «redressing the balance between productivity, social justice and democratic freedoms.» He said his main aim would be to forge a policy that will safeguard competitiveness and high productivity in a globalized environment, while also creating an effective network of social protection for weaker citizens. If Papandreou manages to draw up even the draft framework for such a plan over the next few months, his presence at the helm of SI will be exceptionally significant, not just for PASOK but for the entire country.