New York (ANA-MPA – F. Karaviti) Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou addressed a gathering of Greek-Americans in New York’s Astoria district on Saturday night, focusing on issues like the expatriate vote for Greeks living abroad, major foreign policy affairs and the global credit crisis.
Reminiscing about his own experiences as a Greek living abroad, he stressed the need for Greek expatriates to feel proud of their country and accused the present Greek government of lacking a plan or a vision and of “having done everything to make us lose our self-confidence and make us feel pessimistic and miserable.”
Referring to domestic issues in Greece, the main opposition leader stressed that people were tired of a constant stream of scandals:
“We do not want to deal with scandals. This is not Greece. Greece belongs to the Greeks with decency, pride, values and certainty about the future. For this reason we must – and I have made repeated proposals on this to the prime minister – work together to strike at corruption, introducing rules for the operation of the state,” he stressed.
The state in its current form did not protect the weak or public property, or the institutions, forests and beaches of the Greek people, he added.
Regarding the global financial crisis, Papandreou said this was not a crisis that concerned numbers or statistics so much as values and democracy, adding that it was mirrored in the neo-liberal climate currently prevailing in Greece.
“This happens when a party becomes bound to big interests that are not interested in the good of the people and do not reflect democratic institutions. We hope for a democratic overthrow in Greece but also in America,” he added.
PASOK’s leader, also current president of the Socialist International, then referred to an SI initiative to create a committee under Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz to chart a “road map” for emerging from the present economic crisis.
Papandreou devoted some time in his speech to the Cyprus issue, stressing that it was unacceptable that the island republic was still under occupation in 2008, as a member of the EU:
“Today, a window of opportunity is opening. The president of the Cyprus Republic, Demetris Christofias, is a leader with broad horizons and goals, who has succeeded in gaining the respect of the international community,” he said. Papandreou also stressed his close personal ties of friendship with the Cyprus president and expressed his own and PASOK’s full support for Christofias’ efforts.
PASOK’s leader appealed to Turkey to “finally allow the Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots solve their problems by themselves, without outside intervention, so the island can be reunited.” He also called on Turkey to respect the decisions of the United Nations and the rules of the EU and to withdraw its troops.
Regarding the name dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Papandreou said the results so far had been disappointing and repeated his position, calling for a composite name using a geographic determinant for all occasions, without any double names.
He stressed that PASOK was displeased with the course taken by the negotiations for the name dispute, especially after the new proposals made by the UN mediator that he said linked the name issue with issues of minorities.
On the vote for Greeks abroad – and in reply to government claims that PASOK was using stalling tactics and blocking the relevant legislation – Papandreou said that his party had been the first to open the way to an expatriate vote but disagreed with the draft bill presented by the present government, which he said would amount to no representation for Greeks abroad at all.