PASOK Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos, who was named Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister in Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras’ government after reversing his opposition to the closing of the national broadcaster ERT, said he agrees with his political rival’s policies for getting Greece out of an economic crisis.
Venizelos said the same about previous Prime Minister and then PASOK leader George Papandreou when the Premier named him Finance Minister and both men, despite their different ideologies, said that imposing austerity measures on the order of international lenders was the only save to save the country.
Venizelos, on the job only a couple of weeks, said he has a good relationship with Samaras whom he criticized frequently before the Premier gave him plum jobs in the government. Venizelos said their relationship is critical to the survival of the two-party hybrid government as it tries to keep Greece afloat and eventually wean itself off foreign aid.
“Our relationship is based on a shared vision and personal trust because we are carrying a great burden,” Venizelos told Sunday’s Kathimerini in an interview. However, Venizelos stressed that the “interlinking chains” in the New Democracy-PASOK administration could make life “more difficult” as well as “easier” for him and Samaras. “That is why there has to be cooperation on all levels, including at the heart of government and at each ministry and within each parliamentary group.”
Venizelos said that the creation of a common policy program would help in this respect. The previous government, which included Democratic Left (DIMAR,) also agreed a policy platform but this was never ratified and the coalition collapsed when DIMAR left in protest at the closing of ERT and the firing of all 2,656 workers, as had Venizelos before changing his mind.
The PASOK leader underlined that the new government would not be in a position to adopt any new austerity measures should they be demanded by Greece’s lenders although there is a sense that it might have to happen because of a debt in the health care insurance siystem and other financial problems. “I think that the example of Portugal (where the government has been close to collapse) helps our argument,” he said.
Venizelos also called on his predecessors as PASOK leaders, Papandreou and Costas Simitis, to help revive the Socialist party’s flagging fortunes. PASOK won 44 percent of the vote in 2009 when Papandreou was elected Prime Minister but he resigned two years later in the face of unrelenting protests, strikes and riots against pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions and the party under Venizelos was down to about 5 percent when he decided to hitch his wagon to Samaras.