In the traditional Prime Minister's speech to the country's productive classes in Thessaloniki, on the occassion of the 76th Thessaloniki International Fair, the Greek Premier expressed his confidence that all Greeks believed that the country has all the necessary sources and human resources and has significant prospects for the future, but people needed to find again their interest for their fellow men and to rediscover the importance of collective effort in order to move forward.
The Greek Prime Minister urged Greek citizens to forget -for the moment- the memorandum and any agreement with the country's creditors and to focus on the need to change everything not only to survive but to build a better country -not because some foreigners say so - "but for our national independence and dignity and for our children".
Papandreou also expressed his confidence that everyone acknowledged the need for Greece to maintain its European orientation and to remain a member of the euro area. "I am certain that we all believe we will be victorious at the end," he said.
The Greek Premier, in his speech, reminded that two years ago, Greek citizens sent his Pasok party to power asking his government to liberate the country's creative forces from any burdens. The people asked for a revolution. The revolution of the self-evident. To make all big changes that will allow the country to exploit its great capabilities. "This is what we do. This is our effort. This is our goal," he said.
He was clear that the government will take any decisions necessary to save the country from bankruptcy, to remain in the euro and to fully implement decisions taken in an EU Summit in July 21. He urged all Greeks to support the government in its efforts. "Those who bet on Greece leaving the euro will find a unified Greece against them. Those who hope to buy Greece for nothing, the enterprises, the land and its workforce, will find every Greek against them," Papandreou said, adding that "all those wishing disaster to save themselves, will also find all of us seeking a better future against them".
The Greek Premier that Greece will begin oil and natural gas explorations in the Ionian Sea and south of Crete, and that a decision for the tender will be signed soon.
Papandreou said the first priority of his government was to ensure that the country moved on a stable course, saving the country from bankruptcy. He said that the public debt soared to unprecedented heights after 2004, undermining the future of generations to come and noted that this rising debt was fuelled by sharp fiscal deficits, which surpassed 15 pct of the country's GDP in 2009. This deficit reflected mismanagement, overspending and breaching all sense of proper management.
Papandreou said a crisis currently prevailing in the country was the result of a trend to spend more than it could afford, lack of transparency, lawlessness, a deep lack of justice, a banking system that managed social wealth not always in a transparent and productive way.
The Greek Premier said the government was negotiating hard, taking in mind national and collective interest. "Greece is gradually regaining its credibility," Papandreou said, adding that decisions taken in EU summit in July were historic both for Greece and for Europe "which made a decisive step towards strengthening its cooperation, establishing new tools to deal with a debt crisis in the Eurozone.
These decisions helped to cover the biggest part of the country's borrowing needs by 2020, drastically reducing our debt obligations in the coming years, with an extension of the repayment period of the loans to 30 years, securing a lower interest rate for our loans, ensuring the participation of the private sector in a bond swap deal and an agreement of repurchasing state debt through a European mechanism.
"We have no right to leave this effort unfinished. And it will not as we are fully determined to defend this effort," Papandreou said.
The Prime Minister expressed his confidence that the country will meet all fiscal targets this year, despite the fact that an economic recession was much deeper from initial estimates.
"I want to be clear," Papandreou said. We will make no discounts, nor we will backtrack on our program. He noted that any delay, any other choice than to adhere to our commitments would be dangerous for the country and its citizens. "We will not let Greece become the scapegoat for the problems -institutional, populist political or other problems currently prevailing in Europe," he said.
Papandreou said there was hope and reiterated his confidence that Greece will make it. He noted however that this will need a hard battle, drastic changes, collective work.
He reminded that Greece achieved many things last year, cutting a fiscal deficit from 36.6 billion euros to 24 billion euros, the largest decline in the Eurozone, but the battle is not over yet.
"We have a long way ahead, but we are on the right track," he said.
Papandreou said that Greece could become a country identified with quality, more competitive, noting that exports grew 40 pct in the first half of 2011, in tourism new markets were opened, green energy was materializing, farm exports grew 25 pct in the first four months of the year, while the government negotiated solutions to speed up absorption funds from the EU.
He said that Greece needed to create a friendly investment climate in the country, by working together the government, businessmen and agencies.
The government ambitious privatization program will create great investment opportunities in the country. Privatizations was not just a way to reduce debt, but a basic development tool to creating new quality job positions and contributing in the creatin of a new wealth in the country.
"We are focusing on our advantages," Papandreou said, such as tourism. "Together we opened new markets in Russia, Israel, Turkey and Serbia and we are now focusing in China and India and to bring the US closer.
The government begins a process of offering land to yound people who want to become farmers. One million stremmata (one stremma=1,000 sq.m.) We plan to reverse a negative agricultural balance and reforming farm cooperatives.
Papandreou said that that green energy power could surpass a national goal set for 2020 after the government's approved a series of large-scale investments. He added that Greece has opened up the electricity and natural gas markets. "With a plan called "Helios" Greece will become a pioneer in solar energy production which will be exported to Northern Europe. Germany has already expressed interest in the program and we expect to attract investments more than 20 billion euros creating thousands of new jobs. The privatizations of DEPA, DESFA, Hellenic Petroleum and Public Power Corporation will bring new capital and know-how in the country," Papandreou said.
The Prime Minister stressed that the country's environment could become a development advantage for the economy.
Papandreou said another challenge was the create a modern state to better service the citizen, ensuring equal rights, protection and equal opportunities for all, through promoting significant changes in higher education, ensuring pensions for the next generations through a sustainable pension system, implementing programs to stop rising unemployment, promoting a new legal framework for drug users.
Papandreou announced a large scale battle to combat tax evasion and called all Greek citizens to help in this effort. "This is just the first step. But it proves our will. And we will continue, you must be certain of this".
Papandreou said it was unfair that wage earners and pensioners to pay their taxes while other owing hundreds of millions of euros, not paying taxes. In the past, Greece excelled through the activities of greatd donors, who earned money abroad and offered money to help the country and its citizens. The Premier expressed the hope that modern Greeks would follow this example.
Papandreou also said that Greece must have a political system worthy of the expectations and the rights of its citizens.
"In the past two years we fought to change our country. You can criticize me for several things. I am open to criticism. But I am fully determined in our national effort. This road has no return. But I know that Greece deserves better.
"I ask banks to respect the support offered by the state. Bankers must support their banks themselves. It is my decision than any bank needed capital support from the state, this will be offered through common shares. I ask Greek businessmen to believe and invest in Greece, all self-employed people to pay their taxes, our farmers to turn to exploiting the advantages of each region, to look abroad. I ask civil servants to support citizens. I ask all political parties to take a more responsible stance and to support citizens. To put aside our differences and petty ambitions," Papandreou said.
"I am here to achieve our goals together. And I promise that together we will succeed," Papandreou noted.