06 September, 2003
Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Friday said that the next four years will be a high risk period, since national issues, the European position of the country and the development and prospects of society and economy are at stake.
In his inaugural speech at the 68th Thessaloniki International Trade Fair (TIF), Simitis stressed that the issues at stake concern the future of the country and their outcome will be determined over the next four-year government term. The Athens 2004 Olympic Games, he said, was one of the country's top priorities.
Simitis noted that ''we should intensify the efforts, so as to succeed in organizing the Games'' and noted that the effort, which was made up ''till now, has proven false all voices of danger-mongering''.
He added that the funds now used for the Olympic preparations stemmed from the national budget and that once the Games are over this development surplus will be funneled to the regions of the country.
The premier also focused on the Cyprus issue and the Greek-Turkish relations, two issues, he said, that should be settled, calling 2004 a landmark year for Greece and Hellenism during the past 30 years.
He said that in 2004 Turkey's contribution toward the resolution of the Cyprus issue and the Aegean continental shelf issue on the basis of International Law, will be assessed.
The resolution of these two problems will release funds and forces from today's huge defense spending and will direct those funds to other aims, that is toward the support of development and social policy.
A third issue at stake this next four-year term, Simitis said, will be Europe's Constitution and Greece’s position in the European Union.
The premier also made mention of the new election law his government is drafting, noting that the new district delineation in conjunction with transparency will comprise a complete cluster of changes that will upgrade the political process.
''Our aim is to establish a progressive governance, which will support an open society,'' Simitis under-lined.
Comparing today's Greece, with that of the past, he said that conditions in the country at present can not be compared with conditions in 1992 or even with 2002, adding that ''we have conquered a truly strong position in the European Union and our region''.
Simitis said, however, that the hardest battles are still ahead and that 2004 is one of the most critical years for Greece's interests and those of Hellenism, since during this period Greece's national effort to converge with the rest of the European Union countries on all issues, but mainly concerning the economy, will be at stake.
The premier said that the most important achievement of the country was the regaining of the national self-confidence, which in turn, as he said, will show the path ''which we must follow in the future''.
''We Greeks must fight this battle united and we should aim for a wider victory, which will overcome the traditional party lines and it will be a victory in the fight for a permanent overturning of the traditional image of the country,'' the prime minister said.
He spoke extensively about his government's economic policy, saying that ''the economy now is at a stage from which we can move faster''. ''The policy that has been implemented has already yielded results and was proven correct for the development and prosperity of the country, in contrast to the neo-liberal recipes, which lead to the decrease of workers’s real wages.''
Confronting criticism on the economy's ability to support the recent social policy measures, the premier said that the measures announced on Tuesday are based on the 2004 budget that will be tabled on Oct. 1st, adding that with this new spending, Greece exceeded the EU average funding for social policies.
Simitis also noted that ruling PASOK's fiscal and economic policy plan for the next four years is based on the idea of growth and continual progress by improving the productive structures of society, stressing that pressures from special interest groups for more money that do not reflect real need will not be accepted
He concluded by underlining that 2004 will mark Greece's capability to make a leap to tomorrow.
Source: Athens News Agency