New FinMin welcomed in Brussels

Rehn praises Hardouvelis’s appointment as senior euro officials express ‘relief’

The appointment of Gikas Hardouvelis, a non-partisan technocrat, at the helm of the Finance Ministry as part of the major shake-up of the Greek Cabinet on Monday was Tuesday welcomed by the European Union’s economy chief and other senior officials in Brussels.

“I congratulate Gikas Hardouvelis on his appointment and look forward to meeting him at the Eurogroup and Ecofin summits next week in Luxembourg,” EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said in a written statement.

Hardouvelis is expected to make his debut at the meeting of eurozone finance ministers on June 19, when Greece is unlikely to secure its next bailout tranche of 1 billion euros as a number of “prior actions” remain outstanding. Both installments are expected to be disbursed at the next meeting, in July.

Greece’s new finance chief is then expected to meet with troika inspectors on July 9-10 during their progress review of the Greek program ahead of negotiations on the 2015 budget and the sustainability of the country’s debt.

Rehn praised the legacy of outgoing minister Yannis Stournaras, who is expected to take over as Bank of Greece governor.

“In 2012, he set out to promote tough and key reforms,” said Rehn, who acknowledged Stournaras’s “tough work and dedication.”

Speaking to Kathimerini, a number of senior European officials expressed relief about the appointment of the experienced banker and economist who previously served as an adviser to interim Prime Minister Lucas Papademos.

The same sources however voiced skepticism over the forced resignation last week of Greece’s chief tax collector, Haris Theoharis, which cast doubts over the administration’s desire to create a truly independent revenues service in line with troika demands.

Speaking during his swearing-in ceremony Tuesday, the new finance minister suggested he would try to strike a balance between the demands mandated by foreign lenders and the needs of crisis-hit households.

“We must stay the course on reforms and ease the burden on Greek families. We are all suffering," said Hardouvelis, pledging to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor.

“We must do what we want, not just what the troika wants us to do,” he added.