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Papandreou Says Greece ‘Not Poor,’ Can Overcome Debt Crisis

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou said in a speech to a German industry federation event in Berlin today Greece will live up to all its commitments and deserves “respect” for its efforts thus far. Photographer: Michele Tantussi/Bloomberg

Greece can overcome the debt crisis and bolster all Europe with the help of stronger leadership from policy makers, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou said.

Greece will live up to all its commitments and deserves “respect” for its efforts thus far, Papandreou said in a speech to a German industry federation event in Berlin today. He noted that from a “huge” primary budget deficit in 2009, Greece will probably see a primary surplus next year.

Greeks ask whether this is a Sisyphean task or whether the country can surmount the crisis, Papandreou said. “My answer is yes we can,” he said. “Greece has the potential, Europe has the potential,” and can achieve it through global cooperation. “We are not a poor country, we’re a country that has been governed badly.”

Papandreou is in Berlin for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel two days before German lawmakers vote on enhancements to the European rescue fund. Members of Merkel’s coalition are threatening to oppose the changes amid voter anger over aiding Greece, while in Athens lawmakers are preparing to vote today on a property tax that is key to averting the country’s default.

The crisis “offers a unique chance to bring in important reforms,” Papandreou said. While such “major changes” will take many years, “we are determined, the Greek people are determined to make this a success,” he said. “Whether I am re-elected or not is not my problem, my problem is to save the country.”

‘Blaming Each Other’

Europe must solve the debt crisis together with Greece, Papandreou said, urging fellow European countries to end finger-pointing over the crisis and its causes.

“European partners must stop blaming each other for collective and institutional failings and acknowledge that no European nation will thrive in isolation,” he said. “We must stop blaming each other for our different weaknesses.”

European stocks climbed for a third straight day, with BNP Paribas SA and Societe Generale SA leading a rally in banks. German 10-year bonds, perceived as among Europe’s safest securities, also fell for a third day.

Policy makers “must prove to the markets that we have a firm grip on the debt crisis and we are determined to solve it together,” Papandreou said.

He said that he appreciated the “political difficulties” for other governments to justify euro-area bailouts, saying that rescue funds are “common success” in the future.

“We are not asking for applause,” he said. “We need years to make these major changes. We are simply asking for respect of the facts.”

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