Simitis battle with industries
Prime Minister Constantine Simitis was the target of severe criticisms regarding the situation of the Greek economy on the Annual Conference of the Federation of Hellenic Industries (Sindesmos Ellinikon Biomihanion). The Prime Minister accused the entrepreneurs that they are not taking any initiatives. Instead, they heavily rely on European Union's subsidies and on state policies. He also accused the board of the Union for its close links with Nea Dimocratia (New Democracy, Greece's main centre-right opposition party), as it stands as a firm obstacle against the further co-operation of the government with the Federation.
The president of the Federation, Odyseas Kiriakopoulos, responded to the Prime Minister by arguing "...last year the investments made by private firms had increased by 11 per cent, whereas at 1999 they had only increased by 5.4 per cent. Moreover, industrial production had increased by 6 per cent compared to less than one per cent in 1999." Kiriakopoulos also blames the government for the mishandling of the economy.
Prime Minister Simitis had responded that he would not accept any criticisms on the situation of the economy. His government is doing its best in order to tackle with the pre-existing problems of the Greek economy. Still, he failed to account for the fact that, since his political party (the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement, PASOK) came to power 20 years ago, with a short interval of three years by Nea Dimocratia, the then problematic nature of the economy has been a direct result of its party policies. Therefore, he should not deny his own responsibilities, but take firm action against these problems.
In a interview that he gave on the Greek television channel NET with journalist Stavros Theodorakis, Prime Minister Simitis gave a detailed account of his political intentions. First of all, regarding the future changes in government, he compared the government with a sports team and stated, "...I am using my best players. There are not any magic tactics. I should do what I have to do when the time is right."
On the issue of his succession, he specifically stated that in a case of a win in the next elections, he himself would start talks regarding the subject matter. He had also tried to ease the tensions between the government and the Federation of the Hellenic Industries. "...Neither the government nor PASOK has anything against the entrepreneurs. However, the board of the Federation shares a neo-liberal paradigm that we, as a government, do not agree with."
He had also accused Nea Dimocratia that it is facing a lack of political proposition. In his own words, "...Nea Dimocratia has its own curriculum vitae, that Nea Dimocratia, the Right, wants us to forget. Nevertheless, we do not choose to forget it. It is our adversary, whether it regards the past or the future."
He had also referred to the pace of development of the Greek economy as very encouraging, that it will become even better in the next three years. On the aspect of criticisms that he is subjected to, he had replied that "...they are intentionally and that misery brings misery." He had expressed his sympathy for those who had invested their money in the Greek stock market and lost it all. He had warned all those who think that they are playing games with the Hellenic public that they should soon end up in jail.
On the reforms of the insurance policy, the Premier had assured people that there would be a feasible solution until the end of the four-year period of PASOK's government. Finally, although he insisted that there are numerous positive steps that the government had made, there are also some not well-taken or well-thought through decisions by the government. He recognised the problems that people are facing in their everyday life and declared his government would fight against corruption.
Karamanlis warning Turkey
The leader of Nea Dimocratia, Constantine Caramanlis personally involved himself on the talks regarding Turkey's accession to the European Army, by directly accusing the government that "... we have reached a certain point where Turkey, a state that is not a member of the European Union yet, is attempting to halt the actions of the European Army in the Aegean and Cyprus. The government should understand its deterrent ability. We should not recognise any secret agreements that equal Greece with Turkey. An evolution of this kind would lead to the risking of our national security and of the entrance of Cyprus into the European Union. The security of the Greek borders, which are borders of the European Union as well, consist one of the main reasons for Greece's entry into the European family."
Furthermore, on the same subject, Minister of Foreign Affairs George Papandreou stated that Greece would veto any attempt of Turkey's future accession or involvement in the European Army.
Law on Terrorism
It was the first time in Greek political history, and probably in international political history, that a law was passed in the Greek parliament through the support and vote of the opposition and not of the party in government. More specifically, the new law regarding terrorism was passed thanks to the votes of the opposition party Nea Dimocratia, as most of the members of Parliament that belong to the governing party abstained from the voting procedure.
However, the specific law has many faults. An appropriate example of this is the conversation held between one Nea Dimocratia MP, Apostolos Andreoulakos, and Minister of Justice Michalis Stathopoulos, where Mr Andreoulakos specifically asked the Minister how a witness could testify against a certain terrorist when the law entitles the terrorist to know the witness's name.
Mr Stathopoulos replied that the law would secure the witnesses, their family and their relatives. Yet, Nea Dimocratia were not alone to react. Even members of PASOK, assisted by other members of left-wing political parties present in Parliament—like D Gouskos, Panagiotis Kritikos, and Foivos Ioannidis—accused the government for suggesting such a cruel and unfair law.
Notwithstanding, Nea Dimocratia hastened to exploit the situation when its parliamentary representative, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, insisted that this process had demonstrated a lack of governance and co-operation inside PASOK.
Konstantinos Louridas, 8 June 2001
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