Prime Minister George Papandreou on Friday addressed the first meeting of his new cabinet immediately after it was sworn-in.
“We are still at a turning point, in the middle of a tough negotiation that will determine the country’s future and we are called to reach a viable solution to an immediate and major national problem - namely, the debt problem that threatens to ruin us, destroying the lives of millions of Greeks - while guaranteeing that this course will be safe and reliable,” Papandreou said.
He said that a restart is being made through the new government, stressing that the previous government performed a “monumental, impressive and historic work”.
Papandreou referred specifically to former finance minister George Papacon-stantinou, stressing that “he shouldered unthinkable burden in crucial times for the country” and said that his work was of national importance, adding that he “honored the country and government by giving tough battles”.
Referring to Papaconstantinou’s successor and government vice-president Evangelos Venizelos, the premier stressed that his experience and ability will be valuable in the ongoing negotiation and in the implementation of a very painful and tough programme of major structural reforms that will eventually lead to a sustainable economy in the next few years.
He also praised the ruling PASOK parliamentary group for the efforts made together with the people aimed at salvaging the country.
The premier said that the new government is cohesive, functional, battle worthy and determined to complete its work. He called for quick and effective reforms to lift the burden off of the shoulders of the Greek people, stressing that corruption and red tape should be tackled.
Papandreou said the major reforms in public administration will continue and materialize through the newly established administrative reform and e-governance ministry. Economic growth is another priority, he said, adding that many government ministries will have to cooperate to change the production model with an emphasis on “green” energy and development and the creation of a productive and sustainable economy. He also referred to the upgrading of networks, infrastructures and internet access.
On the issue of unemployment, Papandreou said that a cabinet meeting will be held soon focusing exclusively on the specific problem.
Referring to “weaknesses of the political system that need to be corrected,” Papandreou said that a number of issues will have to be examined in cooperation with the political parties in the parliament, adding that “certain of those issues could be decided by the Greek people through referendums”.
On the country’s foreign policy, the prime minister stressed that “with hard work the country’s image abroad has changed over the past few months”. He underlined that Greece’s presence and participation in peace efforts in the greater region will continue, adding that the recent elections in two neighboring countries “signal a renewed effort for the solution of long-drawn issues.”
Papandreou said that the government has a long and tough work ahead for the next 28 months until the end of its term in 2013, stressing that “we want to be able to say then that we have managed to bring back hope not only for the present but for the future of the country and our children as well.”