PM defends govt's plan to grant citizenship
Prime Minister George Papandreou, speaking in Parliament on Monday during an off-the-agenda discussion on Greek citizenship for foreigners and immigration policy, taking place at the initiative of the Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) party, defended the government's decision to grant Greek citizenship to legal, as he stressed, immigrants.
The prime minister made a clear distinction between immigration policy and citizenship policy, invoking "humanity and realism".
Papandreou underlined that the controversial bill settles a problem that has been perpetuated for 28 years without any legislative inititiative handling it effectively.
"550,000 immigrants are living today, legally in our country. Indeed, most owe the residence permit to some of the many legalisations that took place along the way. It is, however, a licence that the state decided to give them. These people exist, live and toil among us. They have faces, hopes, dreams and fears. The economic crisis touches them the same and they worry the same as us. They work, they fulfill their security burdens, they obtain ownership, they send their children to school, they have taken roots in Greece which became for their children the only homeland. We cannot make exclude them them social developments," he said.
The prime minister also wondered "what are the ghosts about the distortion of the nation, what does it mean to be Greek, democracy, equality, humanity" and stressed "do we believe so little in the strength of Greece, the strength of Hellenism throughout the centuries."
Papandreou also argued that the granting of citizenship "does not weaken the guarding of borders and efforts to crack down on the slave trade, that are being upgraded. On the contrary, the fact that citizenship is not granted to immigrants without legal papers also sends a message that there is no point in one entering Greece illegally. Moreover, the founding of the European coast guard service (FRONTEX) is a fact and soon this Organisation's first regional wing will be established in Piraeus."