Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Greece Still Without Interim Government After Papandreou Farewell

The naming of an interim Greek government was postponed for a fourth time on Wednesday night, as Prime Minister George Papandreou and conservative opposition leader Antonis Samaras left the presidential office without an announcement. Greek media were reporting on Wednesday evening that Parliament Speaker Philippos Petsalnikos had been named to lead Greece's interim government, causing uproar in the socialist party. Talks had been ongoing throughout the day for a fourth day between the two parties.

Earlier the embattled Papandreou stepped down after leading his country through the crisis for two difficult years. The interim government that is to ratify a second bailout the country badly needs and then take the country to an election next year was supposed to be announced an hour later.

George Papandreou bid Greeks an emotional farewell after four days of gruelling negotiations with opposition conservatives on the makeup of the interim government that will succeed his. He called the new government an end to the acrimony of the past months, and said it would represent Greek solidarity to the outside world. Its aims are clear, Papandreou said – to unblock the next instalment of an existing bailout package and ratify a second, 100bn euro bailout. Without the money Greece will default in a matter of weeks. He also called on the new administration to continue structural reforms to turn the economy from austerity to development, and reverse four years of recession.
 
At 6pm local time, Papandreou delievered the following address:
 
"Today we are doing what is nationally necessary and understood. The political forces are putting their support behind the country’s next political steps. This is necessary for the country to emerge from a crisis born of the mistakes of the past and an international crisis.

"From the moment the scale of the crisis was apparent, it was clear that what the political forces should do is cooperate, as is done in so many countries. If we didn’t do it now, when would we have this cooperation? From the beginning I supported the path of cooperation. I think that is what people wanted. That is why I supported it from the first. We did not have this. Now we do.

"We have differences, ideological and practical. We leave behind the acrimony and confrontation. We present a government of national unity to implement the decisions of 27 October, which gives us security at a troubled time. And we want to open a new era in our nation. We need more than ever to believe in ourselves, our nation, and to understand that when we have to face a serious problem we are not divided amongst ourselves. We can look at each other without hate and come together in solidarity.

"It was obvious from the beginning that to achieve this we would need a figure that unites us all. And I think the choice is institutional and correct. My presence could never be an obstacle to harmony. I took this decision [to resign] with the good of Greece as my sole concern and with conviction that in a new Greece we can fight side by side to build a different country. This value allows me to proceed down this road with decisiveness and surety.

"We the political powers are joining our forces to create an agreement that vindicates the efforts of the last two years. We need to hold onto this agreement to protect ourselves in view of the dangers that exist.

"The government will hold to this road map: secure the 6th instalment [of the existing bailout]; ratify the Oct 27 agreement that will secure 130bn euro and last through to 2014; start immediately the negotiations to reduce the debt by as much as 100bn euro in the coming years; the new government is also called upon to agree to the changes small and large – to the political client system, opacity, corruption, tax evasion, remittances of money abroad. It is all these things we have combated and I believe that we can guarantee social justice.

"I want to send a message of optimism. When the October 27 agreement is ratified all our problems won’t be over, but we will be able to stand on our own strengths and emphasise development rather than austerity. With this agreement we will send our partners the message that we Greeks know how to cooperate and not shrink from difficult circumstances. I am proud that despite the difficulties we all managed to keep our country upright. We avoided default. We had historic successes. Last year in May the EU did not have a [European] bailout mechanism. But we also managed to make changes that are unprecedented for Greece. These will form a foundation for future generations and the incoming government.

"I never counted personal political cost. For me Greece comes above all. On every trip I carry the flag in my heart. For a very simple reason. Greece is not a fate. Greece is a choice. As it was for me as a child of the diaspora – both a compass and a vision. And it is evident that we have great hereditary strengths – the natural environment, our ingenuity, our cultural heritage.

"I want to thank all those close aides who worked hard to get us to this point. But also the Greek people – for your resilience and trust under difficult circumstances. Thanks to you Greece won the time it needed to negotiate with European partners and put the state above markets. This is something all people want. Thanks to you Greece continues to fight and to hope.

"I want to wish every success to the new premier. I will support this new government’s every step."

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