27 February, 2004
Foreign policy was one of five sections discussed by the leaders of the country's five political parties represented in the national and Europarliament in Thursday night's televised debate, with emphasis being placed on the issue of Cyprus ahead of the island's formal accession to the European Union on May 1.
PASOK leader George Papandreou, replying to a question on whether he will accept a ''carte blanche'' being given to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan for him to provide a solution to the issue of Cyprus, said referendums and the implementation of the acquis communautaire are security valves, adding that if the Greek Cypriots do not agree with the solution to be proposed there can be no solution and this solution cannot ignore the acquis communautaire.
Main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis said that criticism exercised by his party was aimed at achieving the greatest possible benefits for the country.
Karamanlis also said it is in the country's interest for major national issues not to be a part of party confrontation.
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga said her party both in the European and Greek Parliaments did not vote against the accession of Cyprus but against the enlargement of the EU, which she termed inter-state cooperation, ''which is indeed reactionary and anti-popular''. She also rejected the position that KKE is following the path of solitude in foreign policy.
Coalition of the Radical Left leader Nikos Constantopoulos said the accession of Cyprus to the EU was positive, but added that tough negotiations must take place on the Annan plan, while the issue of Cyprus must not become a bicommunal issue. He added that the state which shall result must be the same as all the other European countries.
Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) party leader Dimitris Tsovolas said the opportunity for Cyprus was lost at the EU Summit in Copenhagen when Greece should have threatened to exercise a veto, which it did not do, and which resulted in serving the interests of foreigners and Turkey. Tsovolas also expressed support for a solution to the issue of Cyprus, based only on UN resolutions issued from 1974 until now.
The five leaders opened their televised debate on Thursday night with a discussion on the issue of social policy, health and welfare.
PASOK leader George Papandreou said the PASOK governments have produced a great deal of work with new hospitals and health centers throughout the country, adding that the aim is ''to bring the doctor close to the citizen'' with the founding of urban health centers, the initiation of the family doctor and the right of citizens to select a doctor.
The PASOK leader further said PASOK's program anticipates the operation of hospitals with transparency and decentralization.
Main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis said the abolition of the list of medicines provides all citizens with the possibility of having access to all medicines without the limitations of the list, noting that the list has reduced the production of medicines in Greece by 50 percent.
Referring to the social security issue, Karamanlis promised that age limits will not be increased, nor will contributions, stressing that his party's aim is to have pensions converge with the European average.
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga said European Union funds are enjoyed by the few and are provided with such specifications as to ensure that they reach the hands of businessmen.
Papariga added that the model she has in mind for social policy is one that meets the needs and problems of working people and the supply of labor, which produces social wealth.
Coalition of the Radical Left leader Nikos Constantopoulos said that laws concerning first stage health care are not applied and expressed support for the establishment of a guaranteed income for all working people.
Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) leader Dimitris Tsovolas said health and social welfare are not merchandise and expressed support for a public national health system and a guaranteed social security system with tripartite participation, while also speaking of the redistribution of national income.
Ruling PASOK leader George Papandreou stated that the improvement of the position of low-paid pensioners and low-income earners in general will constitute ''the main priority of the new PASOK government'' after the March 7 general elections. He made a commitment that he would do everything possible ''within the existing margins,'' for all those in financial need to be helped.
Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Costas Karamanlis underlined that the major challenge for the economy was unemployment, noting that economic policy should tend to investments so that jobs are created. He accused PASOK that in this sector ''it failed up to now.''
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga made clear that her party saw matters from a class point of view, noting that it was ''an opponent of plutocracy in the European Union and Greece.'' She also referred to what she termed ''the savage capitalism which we are experiencing today.''
Coalition of the Radical Left leader Nikos Constantopoulos described the economic policies of PASOK and the ND as being ''parallel and on the same one-way path'' and stressed that what was needed was ''another non neo-liberal policy.''
Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) leader Dimitris Tsovolas stressed that the economy should serve the people and stood in favor of ''another distribution of tax burdens and of a redistribution of national income so as to free funds and strengthen domestic demand .''
Source: Athens News Agency