13 March, 2008
Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader George Papandreou inaugurated the sessions of the party's 4-day 8th congress at the indoor Tae Kwon Do stadium on Thursday, promising great reforms in society and in the economy.
Papandreou outlined the main points of "a new national strategy" and criticized the New Democracy party government, while referring to differences "between the progressive and the conservative party", as well as to foreign policy issues and international developments.
The PASOK leader appealed to the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) for cooperation, but stressed at the same time that PASOK's aim is to achieve an absolute majority, "because solutions are not provided by party alliances and big formations but by a strong government which, however, can seek paths of cooperation with other parties and mainly with the Coalition."
Papandreou called on the 7,100 delegates to sanction deep reforms and radical changes in the party immediately after the congress and referred to certain specific changes.
He went on to say that the composition of the new political council will consolidate renewal, unity and meritocracy, while this will also apply to all the other bodies.
Papandreou further underlined that PASOK will wage a struggle for the independence of the mass media, regardless of how they treat his party and noted that the new political council will examine the way with which PASOK will acquire its own media.
Commenting on political developments, Papandreou said that PASOK wants a majority government and a majority among the Greek people to "enable the Greek citizen to have hope and to put an end to the country's downhill trend".
He also proposed that the first step in cooperation between PASOK and the
Coalition should be cooperation between the two Parliamentary groups that should have a steady contact and consultations and make joint moves. He further said that there could be greater convergences along the way, as well as the shaping of a joint governance program.
Referring to preconditions for the creation of "Greece of values", Papandreeou pointed to a new model of development that will invest in knowledge and the country's culture, the promotion of the principles of Socialism and Ecology, announcing the imposition of a green tax on those emitting carbon dioxide, and investing in culture and linking it with the production process.
Papandreou said that the axis of PASOK's new national strategy will be the social state that will guarantee growth with reallocation and reallocation with growth.
He also announced the abolition "of all the arrangements being carried out by the government now with the disorganizing plan," as he termed it, adding that PASOK will not increase retirement age and will not decrease pensions, while farmers will be pensioned at the age of 60.
Papandreou also spoke of taxing wealth, decreasing indirect taxes and reshaping taxes for big real estate.
He said that companies' dividends will be taxed with the rate with which salaries are taxed and companies' undistributed profits which will be invested will be taxed with a low rate.
The PASOK leader further said that a four-year entrance contract to the labor force will be established for young people and the state will undertake to pay social security contributions over this period.
Turning to foreign policy issues, Papandreou said that Greece's position in Europe and worldwide "must be restored and it must seek a dynamic role on the international scene again."
He expressed the hope that there will be a democratic reversal in the United States and that there will be a government which will "implement preventive diplomacy and not preventive wars".
Papandreou pointed out that if rules of international behavior are not shaped on the basis of international law, there will be disarray and wild conflict on the international scene which will be intensified with confrontations over such issues as energy, water resources and environmental crises.
Referring to the Balkans, he criticized the government "because the country's important role has been lost through the negligence and fear shown by the New Democracy party, resulting in us reaching the present deadlocks over the issue with Skopje, in which case a veto is now imperative."
On the question of Kosovo, he said that its unilateral recognition is a flagrant violation of international law and added that Greece's insistence on international law is a profoundly patriotic stance.
As regards Turkey, Papandreou said that his party "has always observed a stance of principles towards the neighboring country and brought the issues of Greek-Turkish relations in the field of the European Union and of international law and not in the field of conflict and military confrontations, as Turkey had wanted."
Messages were earlier read out by Socialist International Secretary General Luis Ayala, ruling New Democracy Secretary Lefteris Zagoritis, who conveyed a message by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Political Bureau member Costas Paraskevas, Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology President Alexis Tsipras. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero also sent messages.
Minister of State and Government Spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos in a response to Papandreou's speech said:
"Mr. Papandreou today, yet again, failed to formulate concrete political proposals. He also failed to address the Greek citizens and their real problems. He made a congress to direct himself to (Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology) Synaspismos. However, this issue concerns himself and his impasses. The Greek citizens trust the New Democracy, which with a clear political speech and decisiveness is continuing the reforms which the country needs," Roussopoulos said.
The Secretary of the National Council of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), Nikos Athanassakis, on Thursday afternoon in Athens declared the start of the sessions of the 8th PASOK congress.
"We are all here with our heart and soul and with full knowledge of our collective and personal responsibility," Athanassakis said.
He warmly greeted the congress’ guests, the representatives of the other parties, the secretary of Socialist International Louis Ayala, the representatives of the Socialist International’s Women and of the European Socialist Party, while he particularly hailed the presence of Cyprus veteran socialist leader Vassos Lyssarides.
Athanassakis also greeted "all working people who are in labour action against a policy which harms their rights and wants to undermine social security."
Referring to the congress, Athanassakis said that "we want it to be a decisive milestone in our course," while he spoke of "the double obligation of PASOK to rid the country from the conservative government and to again open the road for the Greece of values."
Source: Athens News Agency