Samaras spoke of “tax-enthusiasts” in the government that have “broken all records” in the economy, given that “there is no book on the economy in any country that says that in times of recession you increase the taxes”. “Last year, they didn’t believe me. This year, don’t they see the results?” he asked, referring to the government. “Do they want to save Greece with the Greeks, or the economy without the Greeks?” Samaras asked, putting the question to the government and to government vice president and finance minister Evangelos Venizelos.
Samaras pointed out that wherever the government raised the taxes over the past seven months, the revenues have fallen against the corresponding period last year, and cited as an example statistics showing that revenues from vehicle circulation fees have slumped by 80 percent and revenues from fuel have fallen by 20 percent.
Asked why he was not collaborating with prime minister George Papandreou, with the two of them going to Brussels together for renegotiation with the country’s EU partners, Samaras explained: “It is not a matter of faces. It is a political matter. They (government) have a different way of exercising policy, and (ruling) Pasok is muddled because it is in the midst of an existential crisis”.
The only solution under the present circumstances is elections, the ND leader reiterated, and called for “clean solutions, with elections and a strong popular mandate”.
He ruled out the prospect of co-governance with Pasok, adding that he couldn’t care less if Papandreou wants co-governance for “a different reason” in order to fall softly. “I will not burn the country’s biggest weapon, which at this time is clean solutions and elections,” he said.
Samaras further said that he has been vindicated in the predictions he had made, but does not feel pleased when the citizens tell him so. The ND leader further reiterated his call for renegotiation of the Memorandum, stressing that ‘renegotiation of the Memorandum means jump-starting the Greek economy”, but noted that in order to achieve that certain prerequisites were needed. “The programme you are implementing has problems, there needs to be a Plan B and a clear mandate from the people which the stronger that is, the stronger will also be the one who goes to renegotiate”.
He further rejected a Greek exit from the eurozone, citing a bank report that the cost of Greece’s exit from the eurozone would be much greater than the cost of salvaging the country.
On a second bailout package for Greece, Samaras stressed that “if the new Memorandum is on the right track, I have no problem about voting in favor of it”, but “if it is on the same rationale (as the current Memorandum) I will vote against it”.
Samaras also pledged that when his party takes over the government it will set up a parliamentary probe committee to investigate how the country reached the Memorandum “so that the people will learn the truth about how the (preceding) ND government turned over the Greek spread at 130 basis points and today the spread has exceeded 2,000 basis points”.
The main opposition leader said that renegotiation of the Memorandum for jump-starting the economy, with social cohesion and dignity, reduction of the wasteful state, materialisation of the commitment to low pension earners, change of the law on acquiring citizenship and reduction of illegal migration were among the immediate priorities that an ND government will advance.
Asked if ND cadres were having “ministerial suits sewn up”, Samaras replied: “I know of no one having a suit sewn for my government. In order to have a suit sewn, you must first have worn working overalls and gotten them dirty.” He added that an individual’s worthiness and hard work will count, and that non-parliamentary cadres will also be used, and voiced his unshakeable belief that ND will form a self-sufficient and strong government “if not with the first vote then with the second”, although he expressed belief that ND will achieve a self-sufficient government with the first vote and, in that case will “call on Pasok, as the opposition, to manifest half the responsibility of that manifested today by ND”.
Asked if he would seek the contribution of former prime minister and preceding ND leader Kostas Karamanlis, Samaras replied that “Mr. Karamanlis, his opinion and experience, are precious”, and that the relations between them are “very good”. To another question he said that when Karamanlis will speak out “is his own matter”.
Samaras further said that he was not interested in winning the elections just for the sake of winning, but because he is interested in governing, and that is why he needs everyone at his side.
Asked if he would seek a governmental cooperation with Popular Orthodox Rally (Laos) leader George Karatzaferis or Democratic Alliance (Disi) leader and former ND deputy and minister Dora Bakoyannis, Samaras said that ND completely covers the centre-right sphere and that simply evoking the term centre-right does not automatically make someone a member of his party, especially when that person was on the same course as the government and creating “alliances of the willing”. “The centre-right is not an apartment building, nor a one-family house. It is a crusade for the salvation of Greece, and there is no room in it for populists and opportunists,” Samaras added.
Questioned on his criticism that the present government is ‘investing’ in the government’s bankruptcy, Samaras replied that the Pasok government must give account for its two years of misery and disaster-mongering, adding that government members have spoken of the drachma, and not ND.
On the proposal set out by ND for reserve labour, Samaras stressed that the ND proposal did not contain mass layoffs, but provided for employees above 50 years of age labour reserve until retirement, six years for employees between 40 and 50, and three years reserve for employees between 30 and 40.
Samaras further said that problems of “cacophony, indecision and lack of long-term prospect” exist in the European Union, adding that the problem is not the debt but the ‘rigidities’ and ‘disabilities’ of the euro itself.
Turning to foreign affairs, Samaras said that there is no room for opposition rhetoric on Turkey’s stance towards Cyprus over the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and accused Ankara of a “delirium of provocations”.
Cyprus, he continued, has absolute sovereign right to conduct explorations for hydrocarbons, adding that “Greece has lost precious time in declaring an EEZ, and what is needed first is its recognition”.
On FYROM he accused the neighboring country’s prime minister of “extreme nationalism that is leading him to the margins” and of “seeking an identity that does not belong to it (FYROM)” and endorsed a name for Fyrom that will be used in relation to everyone (erga omnes). “The only solution is elections, so that the people’s will is expressed,” New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras said in a speech in the northern city of Thessaloniki.
New Democracy, which is leading the ruling socialists in opinion polls, opposes international bailouts for Greece saying austerity measures are stifling economic growth.