Athens.- The New Democracy (ND) government was facing the challenge of the global financial crisis with a sense of responsibility, but also sensitivity, prime minister Costas Karamanlis said on Saturday, during a visit to the island of Zakynthos, stressing that it would not resort to populism, as the people must know the truth about the magnitude of the problem.
Addressing producer classes, Karamanlis reiterated that he was not concerned with transient popularity, but in “those policies that will secure a better morning after”.
He also said that his concern was not “the office, but what I can do for the country”.
The premier stressed that his first and foremost concern was the national interest, warning that now was not the time for party or personal expediencies, but rather, a national effort was required to resolve the “serious problems, which concern us all”.
Karamanlis referred to the measures his government was taking, and would continue to take, for the sectors that were most hard-hit by the crisis, noting that the first priority was the tourism sector, and stressing that even in the midst of this “stormy crisis” Greece “can prove to be a first-choice destination”.
The premier further said that he was, and would remain, in the front line of the battle in the challenge the country was currently facing, adding that this was a battle that could be won, and “we will win it together”.
“My first and last concern is the collective, social and national interest, the unity and unanimity of the Greek, the present and future of our country. Everything else is other quarters’ concern and anxiety. Everything else is the wishful thinking of those who see attaining the government as an exclusive end in itself. Everything else is just fireworks, scenarios and misinterpretations of irresponsibility. They are not of concern to me. They are not of concern to us,” Karamanlis stressed.
“I am determined to proceed steadfastly on the path of responsibility, the path I have believed in and believe in, for the good of our country, the path that we agreed on, together. This choice, this policy, requires strength, persistence and continuity. It requires perseverance and dedication to a goal,” the premier continued.
On the developments regarding the global financial crisis and facing its impact in Greece, Karamanlis said he was determined to speak the truth, as hard as it might be, regardless of any political cost.
He said he would not ‘caress ears’ and endanger the country’s course by doing so. “I don’t care about temporary popularity. I don’t care about passing impressions,” he said, but rather “I care about Greece and the Greek society, the policies that are necessary in this global crisis, the policies that ensure a better morning after”, adding that “I am taking, and will continue to take, for this purpose, all the decisions that are necessary”.
Addressing himself to the opposition, Karamanlis warned that whoever claimed that “the effects of the global financial storm can be tackled with well-wishing and easy recipes is only trying to defraud the citizens”, adding that whoever was giving out promises without calculation of their cost either does not know, or pretends not to know, what is going on in the world. Indeed, he added, whereas a climate of understanding and unity in efforts was prevailing throughout the world, in Greece there were some quarters that were protagonists in manufacturing pretexts for distancing themselves from every difficult decision, while efforts were being made to negate, distort and falsify the facts, and accused the opposition of irresponsibility and reactionism.
Karamanlis said that he never faced, nor was facing now, any quandary whatever. Between the easy path of irresponsibility and the difficult path of responsibility “I made a clear-cut choice from the outset, and I will not diverge from that choice,” he continued, adding that his government would not resort to populism “which can prove harmful for our country’.
The premier further made specific reference to the measures aimed at boosting tourism, noting that the government had promptly taken a series of steps and was intensifying its efforts and extending its interventions, such as a systematic projection of Greece, with increased funds, a drastic reduction in certain fees, subsidization of hiring of unemployed in seasonal units, and other steps.
Greece, he stressed, was a safe and hospitable country, and could prove to be a first-choice destination in this difficult year as well.
The opposition parties issued statements on Saturday criticizing prime minister Costas Karamanlis’ address to producer groups on Zakynthos earlier in the day.
Main opposition PASOK press spokesman George Papaconstantinou said that the country did not have the luxury, nor its citizens the patience, to occupy themselves with whether the prime minister was or wasn’t concerned with posts and offices.
The problem, he said, was that the country at this time did not have a government that solved problems, nor did it have a government that cared about the ordinary Greek citizen or defended Greece abroad with credibility.
For all those reasons, the country needed now, more than ever, a change of course, Papaconstantinou said in a written statement.
The Communist Party of Greece, in a press statement, said that there was “no confidence” in the government’s claims.
Most of the anti-populr measures had been decided before the crisis, together with the EU, and now they were being unveiled under the pretext of the global financial crisis, the KKE charged.
It also warned that ND’s and PASOK’s policy would become increasingly dangerous for the popular strata. Either one or the other, or both together in government, ND and/or PASOK would take even worse measures on social security and pensions, on labor rights, and on the workers’ incomes, the KKE concluded.
The Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) said that the prime minister had reiterated, in his address on Zakynthos, his determination to continue and intensify its “crisis policy”, adding that Karamanlis had opted to “hide behind a petty political discussion lacking substance, which he himself is cultivating”.
SYN accused the government over the “disgrace” of the increase in retirement ages for women in the public sector, the “disgrace of the sale of Olympic Airways, of the dissolution of labor relations, the reduction in remuneration and the layoffs”.
It added that no one cared about Karamanlis’ or PASOK leader George Papandreou’s physical or psychological disposition, but what occupied the working people and the youth was a radical change of course for the country.
Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) press spokesman Kyriakos Velidis said that Karamanlis had failed to clarify whether he would remain at the helm of the ruling New Democracy (ND) party in the event that ND loses elections.