|Friday, 23 February 2024
Athens News Agency: News in Greek, 08-05-07
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Papandreou slams 'un-European' OTE dealIn his first public appearance after a cycling accident just before Orthodox Easter, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Wednesday accused the government of having a policy on privatisations that did not befit a member of the European Union. During a speech to PASOK's Parliamentary group, Papandreou was especially critical of the deal currently being negotiated between the government and Deutsche Telekom (DT) for the management of the state-run phone utility Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE).
"Greece is the only country in the European Union that has sallied forth onto the global market and put everything on the block. This is a policy that does not befit Greece, nor any other country of the European Union," he said in criticism of the OTE deal.
He stressed that the government was essentially handing OTE over to the German state sector and spoke of a "breach of faith scandal against the country" that had started when New Democracy passed laws abolishing safeguards against a hostile takeover bid for OTE via the stock market, such as the law requiring the state to retain 33 percent of OTE shares and another blocking private shareholders from the rights to more than 5 percent of the company.
Replying to accusations that PASOK was "statist", meanwhile, he noted that PASOK was no more statist than the Germans that were currently in the process of buying out OTE's management, given that German company was still subject to extensive state regulation.
He claimed that the deal would convert OTE into a "state-run German vehicle for expansion in the Balkans" and that Greece would thus be denying itself the same opportunity and giving it as a gift to the German government.
Papandreou added that PASOK would exhaust every legal and political means to restore state control over OTE once it resumed power, stressing that this was not an attempt to "intimidate" prospective buyers but "an advance warning".
Turning to other issues, PASOK's leader accused the government of "lacking a plan" for the coming period, in which radical changes were expected, and that PASOK's duty was to "reverse the government's inability, and the insecurity and pessimism it had instilled in the Greek people".
Describing the state of the economy as "tragic", Papandreou claimed that the budget had collapsed in the first third of 2008.
The main opposition leader then turned his criticism to the government's environmental record, saying that it had placed Greece under "environmental supervision" from the EU. He was particularly scathing about the new land planning bill presented by the government, saying its main promise was "cement everywhere" and a return to the past, while blasting a reference by Environment Minister George Souflias about turning to nuclear power as an alternative.
Other areas that he attacked the government included the planned revision of the Constitution that he described as completely lacking in bold, progressive measures, while also accusing the government of a series of violations of the spirit and letter of the Constitution.
Referring to a statement by Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis about a coming "tsunami" of court cases, Papandreou said it was unheard of for a minister to make decisions as though he were a public prosecutor and stressed that PASOK had nothing to fear but did not trust the government's manipulation of justice.
He also commented on the name dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), repeating his positions and for the first time linking the support received by Greece for its veto at the NATO summit in Bucharest with a possible trade-off involving the country's arms procurements programme. If this were true, he added, it would put the government's handling of the affair in a completely different light.
"I hope that the support for Greek positions at Bucharest was not the result of promises by the Greek side to buy defence equipment worth billions of euros, as became apparent yesterday," he said in comments on the armed forces restructuring announced by the government.
Another focus of Papandreou's speech was the poor state of the public health system, which he said had been allowed to languish and pointing out that he had had first-hand experience of the problems during his recent hospitalisation at KAT accident hospital in Athens.
Caption: Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou addresses his party's Parliamentary group on Wednesday, in his first public appearance since a lengthy confinement while recovering from injuries suffered in a cycling accident before Orthodox Easter. ANA-MPA - Katerina Mavrona