Inconsistent Papandreou

George Papandreou’s proposal, made out of the blue yesterday, that Greece extend its territorial waters before taking the issue of delineating the continental shelf to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, was the latest manifestation of the Socialist leader’s wavering on significant issues. Papandreou appears to back one view only to abandon it for its opposite in the face of partisan pressure. Papandreou’s inconsistency is not exclusive to sensitive foreign policy issues like Greek-Turkish relations. When it came to revising Article 16 of the Constitution, regarding the creation of non-profit tertiary institutions, there was little sign of cohesion inside PASOK. Although Papandreou had suggested that he would lend his support for the deregulation of university education, he eventually made a U-turn under pressure from PASOK’s student organization. In the past, the Socialist leader had endorsed proposals for voluntary retirement programs for workers in the public utilities (DEKO) only to discard them in the face of burgeoning opposition from within. The same happened with the much-hyped Scandinavian model for the economy. Giorgos Floridis, PASOK’s coordinator for economic matters, was removed after saying that Greece should use that particular model, which involves more flexibility in hiring and firing. The massive student demonstrations in France also brought an about-face in Papandreou’s comments concerning youths being employed without insurance. Papandreou’s retractions would not matter that much if he were not the leader of the main opposition party. The problem is Papandreou holds a major institutional role in Greek politics. Despite his pledges, the Socialist opposition leader appears to shape policy depending on the preferences of the party base and the findings of opinion polls. Greece, however, needs a serious and responsible dialogue with thought-out positions on all the main issues. And that can only take place once Papandreou makes up his mind on these issues.

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