"We are determined to move forward, to protect the agreement of July which, when implemented, will make our debt fully manageable," Prime Minister George Papandreou stressed in statements on Sunday during the scheduled press conference given each year by Greek prime ministers at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF).
"I will not do anyone the favour of allowing the country to collapse," he stressed, shortly after Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos had announced a decision for a blanket tax on all buildings in the country.
"I would rather that we all lose something than that we should all lose everything for ever," Papandreou said, stressing that he was determined to take any decision was needed so as not to jeopardise the country's course and that Greece's commitments would be fully met.
The prime minister underlined that the country was experiencing an 'economic storm' and that he would not let anyone threaten Greece or make it a sacrificial victim.
He categorically ruled out the prospect of early elections, saying the government would not flee its responsibility and 'toss the hot potato' to someone else.
"The people do not want elections, they want changes. We are judged each day and we are fight a great battle," he stressed.
The prime minister was not sparing in his criticism of main opposition New Democracy, saying that he had given up on efforts for a broader consensus because of the main opposition "lack of maturity". He noted that several members of ND would have liked to support the government's effort.
Concerning the government's measures and the uniform public sector pay scale, he said there was no fear of lay-offs in the civil service, at least not in the near future, nor that civil servants pay would be slashed to about half their current levels.
Asked if he intended to propose the abolition of tenure for the civil service during the revision of the Constitution, he said that "there should be no taboos on what we discuss".

Foreign policy issues

Prime Minister George Papandreou, focusing on foreign policy during his scheduled press conference in the framework of the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) on Sunday afternoon, said it is the right of sovereign countries, such as Cyprus, to utilise and exploit their natural resources.
"It is a sovereign right of the Republic of Cyprus, as well as of Israel and every other country, to carry out research or to make agreements either for the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) or the pipelines and be able to exploit the natural resources it has," the prime minister stressed, adding that "this is a position that is not Greek alone, it is also a European position" and in any case it is "a clear position towards Turkey as well."
Asked whether the possible use of force by Turkey will constitute "casus belli" for Greece, Papandreou said "the threat of force is not at all pleasant and I believe that sobriety will prevail and of course I believe that the European Union in its entirety and the international community will not only want there to be noforce, but neither the threat of force."
The prime minister also stressed that "we have every reason to develop, as well as to improve our relations with the neighbouring country" something that "we are doing and we have proved", with "considerable progresses in various sectors", but underlined that "the basis on which whatever relation will be built, today, tomorrow and in the future is the basis of respect of International Law."
Referring to how the government intends to act regarding the exclusive economic zone in the Aegean, Papandreou said "in the framework of cooperation and of International Law we are claiming all our rights. Our rights demand, just as the issue of the continental shelf and the extension of territorial waters, the issue of the exclusive economic zone is an issue of a right, as well as an issue of cooperation with the neighbouring countries. This is what we are trying and promoting with all countries, including Turkey."
The prime minister further said that there must be a clear distinction "between our economic difficulties and whatever problems or major issues of national importance and foreign policy," adding that "we have achieved this and communicated it everywhere."
He also said that Greece's influence in the sense of economic cooperation "is not the same, as in the past, when we had a a stronger economy, when we had 5.5 percent growth and when there was not the pressure on the banking system as well, due to the public debt that the Greek banks also have", explaining that "this is yet another reason for which we must exit from this crisis soon."
Also commenting on developments in the Arab world, Papandreou termed the "Arab spring" a "great opportunity for democracy" as well as "an oportunity for there to be an initiative regarding peace, the Middle East issue, the Palestinian issue."
He expressed the conviction that "Israel and Palestine must at this moment proceed and establish a climate that will permit the creation of an independent Palestinian state, with one country nearby, Israel, that will feel safe and will also be recognised, in peaceful cooperation with the Arab countries."
Papandreou underlined that "it is something that we are pursuing, it is in our interest."

PM holds last-minute informal cabinet meeting in Thessaloniki

Prime Minister George Papandreou on Sunday called a last-minute, informal cabinet meeting in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, where he is visiting the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF).
The cabinet meeting started at 10:00 a.m. and ended just before 3:00 p.m., while the traditional press conference held by the prime minister at TIF each year was postponed until 4:00 p.m. instead of the scheduled time of 1:00 p.m.

PM Papandreou to chair PASOK Parliamentary Group meeting on Monday

The Parliamentary Group of the ruling PASOK party will convene at 12 noon on Monday under the chairmanship of Prime Minister and party president George Papandreou.