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Papandreou’s fall

18 July 2012 / 23:07:54  GRReporter
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Former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou may be outside the country's active political life, but is still the chairman of the Socialist International and а PASOK deputy. His failure to implement one of the most progressive reforms for Greece made local political analysts seek the answers of two interesting questions. One is "Why did Papandreou fall?" and the other is "Who betrayed him?". The third generation Prime Minister remains in the most responsible position for 25 months, during which the name of the country became synonymous with "bankruptcy".

Decisive for Papandreou's resignation was his proposal for a referendum by which the Greeks to determine whether they want to continue receiving money from Europe under strict economic supervision or not. This idea of his happened to be the sudden bomb, that exploded in the Prime Minister's face. The official position at that time was that he had taken the decision unilaterally, without notifying Greece's European partners. Then, in Germany, France, Austria and other strong European Union countries rose a wave of discontent. If Greece will hold a referendum to decide whether or not to accept financial aid, the 16 leaders who give money to the Mediterranean country have to hear the voice of their people to find out if they agree or not to give money to Greece.

The decision to give Greece a second chance was made at a summit of the European Union's leaders on 26 October 2011. According to an article in To Vima, on 30 October George Papandreou held a secret meeting with selected members of PASOK, including Harris Kastanidis, Filippos Petsalnikos, Nikos Athanasakis, Dimitris Repas and Evangelos Venizelos. At this meeting the Prime Minister announced, in front of a limited audience, his decision to hold a referendum. He said that European leaders were aware of the proposal and had given him the green light. "By one referendum only we will not be able to stop the growing tide of scepticism and meanwhile to strengthen policy through the support of the people, which will ensure that Greece wants to remain part of the euro zone," Papandreou said at the secret meeting. "I have talked to Merkel, Sarkozy is also informed," he added.

On October 31, Monday, Papandreou announced officially his decision at the meeting of PASOK parliamentary group. First negative feedback to the idea was given by the then Health Minister Andreas Loverdos. "This is a mistake," he retorts. Obvious opponents of the referendum besides Loverdos are Minster of Transport and Infrastructure, Yiannis Ragusis, and the Cabinet's speaker Elias Mosialos. Mariliza Ksenoyanakopulu and Miltiadis Papaioannou are reserved about the proposal. Initially, Evangelos Venizelos takes the Prime Minister's proposal for a referendum with obvious indignation. In a live show on Antenna TV, he says, "If the Greeks don’t give their opinion now, when can we use the cobwebbed way of direct vote - referendum?".

After the initial shock on Tuesday, in PASOK a wave of discontent starts rising and Venizelos sees an opportunity to grab PASOK's steering-wheel, for which he competed in 2007. Schism seems inevitable, but Papandreou has no time to put out internal fires, because on Wednesday - 2nd November, he has to attend the G20 summit in Cannes. There Greece happens to be the black sheep in the flock of European countries. At the meeting, the Prime Minister is accompanied by Evangelos Venizelos. During Greece's rebuke over the independent solutions for the Referendum in Cannes, Athens is preparing to dethrone Papandreou. German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, says that if a referendum is held, it must answer the question of whether Greece wants to stay in the euro zone or to leave it. Not whether the Greeks want help or not. The referendum is scheduled for 4th December. The sixth installment of the aid has been approved so that the Mediterranean country to be able to recover the costs for the referendum.

A close associate of the Prime Minister warns him that shortly after landing at Athents airport, Venizelos will stab him in the back. Papandreou does not believe this, but the information proves exact. At 4.45 am after the flight, Evangelos Venizelos says openly: "The position of Greece in the euro zone is a historic achievement for the country, which cannot be put into question. This right cannot depend on a referendum." Shortly after, PASOK's deputy, elected in the region of Pieria, Litzeris Dimitris, says: "Papandreou is a thing of the past." A vote of confidence in the government is scheduled for the fourth of November.

Later, in a narrow circle, George Papandreou makes a self-assessment: "Merkel and Sarkozy knew all about the referendum. Maybe my mistake was that I called them on Sunday before the public announcement." According to him, he had warned the German Chancellor about his intentions as early as September 2011, during his visit in Berlin on 26-27/09. Merkel had given her blessing to the referendum, but had asked him to hold it after the Summit in October. In a private conversation she has stated: "Make a referendum. And I will, too. The Germans have to decide on the constitutional changes necessary for Germany's deeper support to the processes of EU integration."

After the fiasco in Cannes, behind closed doors Venizelos and Papandreou decide to repeal the referendum. PASOK's parliamentary group gives an ultimatum to Prime Minister, that the party will give a vote of confidence to the cabinet, if he himself resigns afterwards. "I fell into Venizelos's trap", evaluates the former Prime Minister. Evangelos Venizelos telephones Commissioner Olli Rehn, Volfgank Schäuble and Jean-Claude Juncker, and informs them that the referendum is cancelled.

Tags: Economics Politics Papandreou referendum fall
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