Heated discussions in Parliament
The government is finally recognizing the injustices in the way contracts are decided upon in highway construction.
Government officias are currently considering whether to re-examine the ways of controlling the already-agreed-upon contracts, as well as changing the entry rules for the new ones. “The illegal act of non-payment is not the solution however” said the Prime Minister, answering a question by Mr.Tsipras, president of Siriza, in reference to the new legislation making non-payment of toll fares an offense.
Continuing with his question, Mr.Tsipras accused Mr.Papandreou that while he was previously at war with contractors and media owners (as many contractors are simultaneously media owners), he is now serving their interests. “We waited for a whole year for the contract agreement with the IMF, but it took you 24 hours to comply with the whim of the contractors, as soon as they announced their decision to ask for the penalisation of non-payment of toll fares.”
"The corruption still exists but these are the last signs of it. This is the beginning of absolute clarity and legality", said the PM. “We are dealing with bad contracts that the previous governement had agreed on and we want to salvage the roadworks in order to provide better highways. Unless you do not want us to embark upon any roadworks. I am really saddened because I see a party which is in parliament to encourage citizens to act illegally, and to deny our responsibilities, something that hurts our country, democracy and the greater good” said Mr.Papandreou.
There are contracts that we do not like. But they were signed by a Greek government. The Greek state gave its word to international companies. If these contracts are negated, we are going to pay fines to these companies and thus we will appear untrustworthy” said the PM.
However, Mr.Papandreou agreed with Mr.Tsipras that citizens pay toll fares for roads which have not been constructed yet, especially the local population who are forced to pass through toll stations every day. “We recognize the injustice and we are trying to find solutions within legal boundaries to help the citizens. But we will never agree with illegality” he said.
“Civil disobedience to this non-democratic behaviour by the contractors and toll owners is a social right” said Mr.Tsipras, reminding the PM that as an opposition party, PASOK had voted against these contracts.
“You cannot blame the citizens for not paying, when contractors had been “devouring” public money for decades and now, amidst the crisis want to earn more money through gambling and the new garbage disposal units in Keratea, and they demand toll fares with a minimum monetary participation on their part”.
“Α few days ago you acquitted all the politicians that were involved in the Siemens scandal, even Mr.Tsoukatos and Mr.Mantelis. The situation is hanging by a thread. You will send citizens to prison for 2,5 euros (toll fares) and 1,40 (public transport ticket) when a year's tickets are equal to a month's salary. This is a horrible thing to do to the people and you must take it back” said Mr.Tsipras.
“The contracts were one of the issues in the reforms that we are trying to pass. And yes, we did make comments on those contracts in the past. But at the moment the main issue is to find a solution for the citizens who are facing fincancial difficulties, but also to keep these means of transport public. I did not accuse the citizens, I am accusing your party, Siriza. Because you are in parliament and are encouraging illegal acts. You should be the first to want to eliminate illegal activity in the country. We are changing the law trying to punish the “big fish”, not just the small fry. But you are demolishing everything”, replied the Prime Minister.
The PM also argued with president of LAOS Mr.Karatzaferis, saying that “We will not lose our national identity. We have given battles for this and we will give many more. We are changing things in Greece not to satisfy Brussels but to free Greece from all the things that drag us down” in reply to Mr.Karatzaferis' question as to the 25th of March and the answers the government has to give Mrs Merkel in relation the European Competitiveness Programme.
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