Brussels issues 'urgent appeal' for Greek unity

02.11.11 @ 16:20

  1. By Leigh Phillips

BRUSSELS - On the eve of the G20 meeting of the world’s leading economies, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso went over the head of Greece’s prime minister and called for national and political unity in the country.

  • National unity is needed to ensure stability in Greece, says Barroso (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Upon arriving in the French resort city of Cannes for the G20 meeting on 3 November, Barroso issued a statement stressing that such a move was needed in order to ensure stability and push through a newly agreed €130 billion EU bail-out deal for Greece that comes with a hefty social price tag of many more years of punishing austerity that the Greek people are rejecting.

"I want to make a very urgent and heartfelt appeal for national and political unity in Greece,” he said.

The communique, which echoes similar calls from members of Prime Minister George Papandreou’s own party, appeared to brush aside the desire of the Greek leader, who has insisted that he will push forward with a referendum on the bail-out deal, announced on Monday, despite opposition from other EU national capitals.

“In the European Union we have agreed on far reaching measures to support Greece. But for those measures to be implemented it is critically important to have stability in the country,” he added.

Barroso insisted that the new rounds of austerity are necessary because without such moves, “conditions for Greek citizens would become much more painful, in particular for the most vulnerable.”

“I call on the government and the political leaders of Greece to show that they are ready to work for national political unity and for achieving the broad support needed for the implementation of the programme,” he said.

Greek citizens Civil unrest in Greece is at an all-time high, with rolling strikes across all sectors and frequently violent protests. The government is regularly unable to enforce decisions or even to go about its daily business due to occupations of government offices and ministries.

Commentators and many politicians do not expect the government to survive a confidence vote scheduled for Friday. Six members of the national council of the ruling Pasok party on Tuesday called on the prime minister to step down.

One Pasok MP, Milena Apostolakis, has resigned due to his opposition to the referendum, reducing the government's support in parliament to just 152 MPs.

Also on Tuesday, another Pasok deputy, Eva Kaili, said she will go unless the referendum is binned. She said the only solution is a government of national unity that can push through what was agreed at the EU summit and demanded that the prime minister be replaced by a character of "common acceptance."

On Monday, the prime minister called a referendum on the new bail-out deal. Some 60 percent of the population are opposed to the new agreement and opening the door to public consultation has dismayed European leaders.

The commission and other senior EU figures have in the past year in a number of eurozone countries argued for national consensus between all major political parties over economic issues around election times.

EU officials say that such consensus is needed to ensure that if governments change, the agreed to economic policies can continue.