Venizelos urges ‘national consensus’ after meeting PM Samaras

Government Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos, leader of the junior party in Greece’s coalition government, on Monday stressed the need for dialogue by all parties to reach a “national consensus” after a meeting with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to discuss the government’s agenda.

“We need a national negotiation, a national consensus and a national duty to the truth that we must all respect,” PASOK’s leader told reporters as he left the meeting, while accusing main opposition SYRIZA of “having chosen a very easy role, reminiscent of the worst versions of the post-junta era.”

“When the government is telling all the difficult truths and struggling, facing our foreign partners, and the opposition is telling easy lies directed at the domestic front and not where the negotiation is taking place, we have an unequal and false image and, in this way, we could be strategically disorientated as a nation,” he warned.

He said the meeting with Samaras had focused mainly on coordinating the government’s work and the national effort for a final and safe exit from the crisis.

“There is fatigue, of course, among the people, after five years of continuous efforts and sacrifices; now everyone is impatient for immediate, tangible results, for a change in climate,” he admitted.

Venizelos was scathing about the approach adopted by opposition parties, saying this was “beneath the occasion and undervalued the sacrifices and concerns of the people.” He noted that this left the government to shoulder the entire weight of the tough negotiations alone when “the right, moral and just thing to do would be to promote national unity and act together as a nation to complete this effort.”

Asked whether there was also fatigue on the part of the coalition government’s MPs, Venizelos noted that the Parliamentary groups of both parties “have an obligation to communicate with the people, to listen to the citizens’ concerns and convey these to the government and Parliament, which is what they are doing.”

It was very easy to adopt demands that “are reasonable, at the end of the day,” he added, but the issue was “what is feasible to do at a conjunction that is very difficult, what can be safely done and what might lead to a demolition of the edifice that we have raised with such effort.”

Replying to a question on the demands of Greece’s creditors regarding pensions and labour relations, the government vice-president pointed out that Greece needs a modern, competitive state serving citizens and economic growth, one with a new productive model providing jobs and opportunities. These are structural changes “that everyone wants,” he added, and on which Greece can build a national reconstruction plan.

He also appeared confident that the government will be able to convince its creditors due to its massive and evident achievements on the fiscal front and in huge structural changes.

Regarding election law, he confirmed that this was among the measures included in the agreements signed by Greece.

During their meeting, Samaras and Venizelos were briefed by Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis on the results of the ECOFIN meeting in Milan, while Venizelos also held talks on foreign policy issues ahead of the UN General Assembly and his visit to Madrid on Tuesday for a meeting on Libya.