PM: "We braked just before the disaster"

Prime minister George Papandreou said that his government, for the past two years, has been "putting out the fire lit by others", addressing a Cabinet meeting late Sunday.

    He also spoke of "facile criticism" by "those who want the position that Greece was in two years ago to be forgotten", and urged his government officials to "mercilessly strike out at the propaganda that completely diverts the blame of the arsonists and targets us, that we supposedly are not putting out the fire quickly enough".

    "We braked just before the disaster to which others were leading the country," Papandreou said.

    Papandreou repeatedly stressed the need for Greece to implement the part of the July 21 eurozone summit agreement it has assumed a commitment on, noting that no one should expect help from others if he is not first in the effort to solve the problems.

    He said that from its very first moment in office, and before the Memorandum, his government took tough decisions, such as abolition of the stage programmes, the drastic reduction of contract workers in the public sector and for all hirings to be made through the Civil Service Hiring Examinations Board (ASEP), but despite all that "we were at the beginning of the deeper changes in our country".

    Papandreou acknowledged that mistakes have been made under pressure, and that there have been delays, "but at least this government is on the move and taking decisions".

    On criticism that his government is not negotiating, Papandreou said that tough and successful negotiations have been made to lighten the debt, which led to the decisions of March 2011 and July 21.

    He rejected any idea of negotiating the debt. "We, first, do not want to renegotiate" the deficit, he said, adding that "we want a primary surplus as quickly as possible" so as to stop producing deficits, although he acknowledged that this practices causes problems of recession.

    The premier also made note of the upcoming meetings of EU bodies, which will deal with the Greek issue.

    The Eurogroup is due to meet on Tuesday, and will be attended by Greek finance minister Evangelos Venizelos, while next Monday German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Nicolas Sarkozy will meet to discuss the July 21 eurozone summit decisions and an evaluation of Greece's progress.

    The Eurogroup will meet again on October 13 in an extraordinary session at which the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) 'troika' will submit its progress report on Greece and decisions on the 6th tranche of the bailout loan to Greece will be taken, followed by an EU summit on October 17 and another eurogroup meeting the following day, which will once again deal with the Greek issues.

    Papandreou expressed optimism on the outcomes of all the above processes, and that in a short time all the eurozone parliaments will have ratified the July 21 decisions so that their implementation may begin.

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