Friday

1st Mar 2024

Greek PM to president: unity talks on the way

  • Papandreou is likely to step down as soon as the nod is given by the opposition to a unity government (Photo: EUobserver)

At a midday audience with the Greek president, Karolos Papoulias, Prime Minister George Papandreou said that moves toward cross-party consensus with the opposition conservatives are necessary to put to rest EU fears that the passage of a €130 billion bail-out and austerity deal are at risk.

"My aim is to immediately create a government of co-operation," he told reporters alongside the largely ceremonial head of state.

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"A lack of consensus would worry our European partners over our country's will to stay in the euro zone,” he said.

The right-wing New Democracy party appears to have softened its stance demanding a new government led by technocrats and opposing one headed by politicians, the option favoured by the current centre-left Pasok administration.

It is understood that once the nod is given from the opposition for a coalition government, the prime minister is ready to step down as early as Monday or Tuesday.

The finance minister, Evangelos Venizelos, a long-time rival of the prime minister is one name in the frame as the new government leader, although other figures are also under consideration.

“Procedures and contacts will begin at the earliest possible time,” Papandreou said.

Initial approaches towards negotiations between the two sides were launched on Friday by a pair of MPs from the external affairs committee, although local reports suggest that New Democracy party did not accept the overture.

Separately, US President Barack Obama on Friday welcomed the prime minister’s retreat from his plan to hold a referendum on the EU bail-out deal and saluted the conservatives’ abandonment of their opposition to the deal as well.

New Democracy has long spoken out against the previous EU-IMF programme for the country and until Friday criticised the replacement package, but commentators have uniformly assessed the party’s opposition as an attempt to gain electoral advantage in the hope that the overwhelmingly unpopular austerity and structural adjustment measures can be pinned on the governing party.

On Thursday, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso issued an "urgent appeal" to the Greek political class to forge cross-party unity.

In the last year, the EU has regularly urged a series of governments in the eurozone to build inter-party consensus on economic issues, usually around election times or when governments were soon expected to fall, out of fear that changes in political leadership could result in different policies being implemented.

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