Politics: PM: 'Light at the end of the tunnel in 2012'

The turning point when the country would once again get back on a path to growth will come in 2012, Prime Minister George Papandreou said during a cabinet meeting held on Wednesday. He stressed that major changes that the government will have to make after the European Union summit on March 24-25.

He referred to three important milestones in this course, the first being the three-year programme that would have to be made part of a national plan, the second being ruling PASOK's national conference and the third, the Thessaloniki International Fair.

Papandreou stressed that the deadlines were tight and a great deal of work had to be done, during which the government had to wage a battle with established interests, entitlements and privileges and deeply-rooted attitudes that had made the country "sick".

In a reference to groups of citizens that gathered to jeer and otherwise express their displeasure at members of the government and other politicians when they went abroad, the prime minister said an effort was underway to "cut off" the government and PASOK from society and daily contact with citizens and their problems.

"We will persevere and remain at the citizens' side on a daily basis with even greater intensity, we will talk with them and jointly tackle the problems," Papan-reou stressed.

Concerning the upcoming EU summit, he said it was crucial and that, if everything went well, the decisions made by EU leaders on March 11 would be confirmed and made official, stressing that these would benefit both Greece and Europe.

He noted also that Greece's proposal for a 'Tobin Tax' on financial transactions was being adopted by more and more countries within the Eurozone.

Papandreou underlined that one of the first priorities was to build a relationship of trust between the state and citizens. For this reason, there could be absolutely no digression from the targets the government had set and the promises it had made, which was to free the next generations from the burden of the past and change the country.

One of the issues raised by the prime minister was the quality of the government's legislative work, which he said would take precedence since several bills had needed to be passed extremely quickly. "I want us to make a new start," he said, adding that the laws should have "very specific values, which the government expresses".

He said an assessment process of existing legislation will soon begin, to see to what extent their impact was positive of whether they needed amendments or improvements.

As an example, the prime minister cited the results of a survey that showed that a significant portion of each wage-earners salary was still being lost as a result of bureaucratic procedures.

He also referred to international developments, such as the nuclear disaster in Japan and developments in Libya, where he said that Greece's priority was to find a peaceful solution. He stressed that Muammar Gaddafi would have to accept the terms of the United Nations, however, concerning protection of civilians and begin a process of democratic reforms.

Wednesday's cabinet meeting was held to discuss and approve five draft bills that are to be tabled in Parliament. These include a bill for reforming the system for agricultural cooperatives, an environment ministry bill on oil and gas pipeline projects, a second environment ministry bill on waste management, an interior ministry bill on improving the legislative process and a finance ministry bill setting up a General Secretary of Public Property, and changing the legal framework for public organisations and enterprises, the organisation of managing public debt and the Consignment Deposits and Loans Fund.

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