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Political developments in Athens at fever pitch

03. November 2011. | 15:02 16:34

Source: AMNA

Political developments were extremely fluid on Thursday in Athens, a day after a high-profile meeting in Cannes between Greek PM George Papandreou and the German and French leaders.

Political developments were extremely fluid on Thursday in Athens, a day after a high-profile meeting in Cannes between Greek PM George Papandreou and the German and French leaders, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, a meeting that resulted in the Papandreou government backing off a decision for a referendum in January -- ostensibly to approve a lending agreement -- and instead eyeing a referendum in December over the question of Greece's membership in the Eurozone.

However, a cascade of heightened criticism, including a viral reaction within Papandreou's own ruling PASOK party, cast even the second option in doubt.

PM's statement after Cannes meeting
Greek prime minister George Papandreou said that the Greek people have the "wisdom and maturity" to take the correct decisions, speaking in the first hours of Thursday in Cannes, where he held talks with French president Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European officials on the sidelines of a G20 meeting and informed them of his decision to call a referendum.

"I consider that the Greek people have the wisdom and knowledge to take the right decisions that will guarantee our country's steady participation in the eurozone," Papandreou said.


"On October 26-27, in Brussels (eurozone summit), we took collective decisions, which are to the benefit of both our country and the eurozone, and which contribute to reduction of the debt, lightening the burden on the Greek people, the country's developmental course, and major structural changes," Papandreou said.

Greek Finance Minister and Deputy Premier Evangelos Venizelos, who accompaied Papandreou in Cannes, issued a statement at 4:45 a.m. (local time) on Thursday stating that Greece's position in the euro is a "historic conquest" of the country that" no one can dispute and a conquest of the Greek people that cannot be made dependent on a referendum."

Venizelos' statement was a clear break from Papandreou's surprise announcement on Monday night that he intends to call a referendum on the loan agreement -- approved at a Eurozone summit last week.

"The country needs to feel secure and stable, and that is the first condition for it to be truly secure and stable. The Greek banks are totally secured, as an integral part of the European banking system. This was clearly concluded last night (Wednesday) from the discussion in Cannes," Venizelos said.

Along these lines, he said moves by the government and the Parliamentary majority are not sufficient.

"The issue (at hand) is not the political correlations inside the country and the future of individuals and parties, but the salvation and recovery of the country through the only feasible process that is contained in the Oct. 26 (EU Summit) decision," Venizelos, a one-time contender for PASOK's presidency against Papandreou, stated.amna

Hours later, Health & Social Solidarity minister Andreas Loverdos backed Venizelos' position, speaking on a private television, where he stressed the need for unity among the political forces since "the country is in exceptional circumstances and the crisis has exceeded al boundaries," adding that he agrees with Venizelos' intercession that the referendum not be held. amna

Loverdos further appealed to the opposition, and especially main opposition New Democracy (ND), to "contribute to unity" so that the full weight may be placed on the country's security.

Main opposition ND

On his part, main opposition New Democracy (ND) spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis did not mince his words in calling Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou "dangerous", noting that after developments in Cannes a day earlier, on the sidelines of a G20 Summit, "it is clear that he must leave."

Mihelakis directly charged that Papandreou, who doubles as president of the Socialist International (SI), is responsible for the "wretched misleading of Europeans (leaders), by portraying a 'so called' debate in Greece on whether the country should remain or not in the European Union and Eurozone." amna

The spokesman expressed surprise over Papandreou's statement, after his meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Cannes, as well as their separate statements, again charging that Papandreou created "out of thin air" such a dilemma "via this wretched misinformation". amna

"The only prevailing problem is that Mr. Papandreou is still prime minister. A man that dares question the central national strategic decision of the country's European course and prospect, a course that was established and can be guaranteed only by New Democracy. Mr. Papandreou is dangerous and must leave," Mihelakis stressed.

PASOK MPs' reaction

High-profile PASOK deputy and former minister Vasso Papandreou on Thursday reiterated her proposal for national salvation government, based upon an immediate initiative by the president of the republic, in order to insure last week's lending agreement, which is linked to a 50-percent 'haircut' of the Greek debt, as well as the simultaneous declaration of early elections. amna

"The lies have finished. It's time for responsibility by all, by the government and by the opposition," she said, speaking before television cameras moments before entering Parliament in downtown Athens.

Vasso Papandreou has no relation to PM George Papandreou.

In a related development, PASOK deputy Eva Kaili, in a letter on Thursday addressed to George Papandreou and the Parliament president, stated that she will not give a vote of confidence to the Papandreou government during a vote at midnight on Friday.amna

The vote of confidence in his PASOK government was called by Papandreou at the same time as his sudden announcement of a referendum.

In her letter, which she uploaded on her Facebook and Twitter social network pages and her personal webpage, Kaili states that "I will not resign my post as an elected representative of my fellow-citizens and my generation, but in Friday's vote I will not give a vote of confidence to your government". amna

Additionally, ruling PASOK state deputy Elena Panariti said she will not back a referendum called by Papandreou.

It was unclear, however, on whether she would vote in favor of the government during a vote of confidence.

"I will not consent to a referendum, which will take Greece out of Europe. I will not give a vote of confidence towards the destruction of my country," Panariti said.

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