20 April, 2005
"Continuous and bold steps are needed if we are to make Europe not just an international power, but an international political force," Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said during his speech at the Economist conference, hosted in Athens on Tuesday.
He spoke of the need to support the European Union since "the stronger, more democratic and more social that the EU becomes the stronger its peoples, societies and citizens will be."
Karamanlis referred to the characteristics of the "new era", noting that "we are experiencing the age of globalization, of the Information Society, of the New Economy." According to the prime minister, these conditions demand change and reforms, such as the Lisbon Strategy, which calls for a series of reforms in order to make Europe more competitive and more dynamic.
Karamanlis also referred to the problems Greece faced in the past and the ones it had to overcome in order to achieve the goals set out by the Lisbon Strategy. He outlined the priorities the government has set for itself, which include cutting back on unnecessary costs in the public sector, fighting graft and corruption, addressing the issue of illegal commerce and tax evasion, and developing public property.
He emphasized the fact that Greece's new Stability and Development Program received positive feedback from the European Commission and noted that the government has declared 2005 as the year of competitiveness, an initiative aimed at ensuring high quality of Greek products and services.
Reference was also made to the accomplishments of his government to date, such as a new tax law, a development law, plans for energy liberalization in the electricity and natural gas markets. The government's next series of actions will focus on legislation for public-private partnership, implementation of a new immigration policy, and regulation of certain aspects of labor relations.
"We recognize the problems of the unemployed, the low-wage earners, the low-pension earners, the farmers. However, things do not change by perpetuating the past. Change and reform are needed in order to strengthen social cohesion, in order to create employment opportunities, in order to create a sense of confidence and optimism," he said.
Finally, Karamanlis also touched on the country's foreign policy, including efforts to solve the Middle East problem through the creation of a Palestinian state and conditions of peaceful coexistence, negotiations regarding the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) name controversy, normalization of Greek-Turkish relations, and the reunification of Cyprus.
Source: Athens News Agency