Papandreou defends Greece's ability to pull through the crisis
Prime Minister Yiorgos Papandreou yesterday said that Greece would pull itself through recession without external help. "I assure you that we Greeks will make it, and we will make it on our own," he told parliament in a speech supporting a new tax bill. "We've got to the point where we're hearing fantastic scenarios about leaving the euro," he said. "It's a joke."
Amid intense speculation yesterday about a possible expulsion of Greece from the eurozone, European Central Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet also felt it necessary to issue a denial of such an eventuality. "There is no legal way for it to happen," he said.
Papandreou blamed "certain politicians and media, playing on the prejudices of their people, to make Greece the scapegoat for everyone else's problems."
Papandreou also alluded to the "second, greater battle" that lies ahead - of resurrecting the Greek economy on the basis of a perceived social justice and equality before the law.
"I've said it before - corruption and deceit are not in our DNA. Greeks manage to distinguishe themselves in every corner of the world, as long as they get a chance - the right environment, the right institutions. As long as they are not disappointed by any sort of unfair treatment."
He called the crisis "a great opportunity" to set Greece to rights, and his government's tax bill "a true revolution".
The debate over Greece also raged in Brussels yesterday, with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso going up against German Chancellor Angela Merkel on aid to Greece.
“I know Chancellor Merkel. She is a committed European and I have no doubts that she will, if needed, be in favour of providing financial assistance to Greece,” Mr Barroso told the Financial Times. Merkel, who leads a fragile coalition, has been under pressure not to commit financial resources to bail out Greece. An FT poll on Sunday confirmed the overwhelmingly anti-bailout popular feeling in Germany.
Partly as a result of German opposition to a safety net for eurozone defaulters, European Union members have become increasingly supportive of an IMF intervention towards Greece if necessary. Barroso openly supported the idea yesterday.
A scheduled meeting yesterday of MEPs with Trichet and Eurogroup President Jean-Claude Juncker focused exclsuively on Greece. The European parliament's press office reported as folows: "Mr Juncker refrained from detailing instruments to help Greece, saying that current commitments from the Member States were enough for the moment. Mr Trichet added that financial backing for Greece must take the form of a loan, not a subsidy, and should be provided only if worsening conditions cause a problem for the eurozone as whole."