Stournaras to become Greek central bank chief

Former Greek finance minister Yannis Stournaras, who spearheaded Greece's return to economic stability after it nearly crashed out of the euro, is to become the next Bank of Greece governor, the central bank said on Wednesday.

Stournaras, 57, will take over from George Provopoulos when the latter's term ends on June 19, days after being replaced as finance minister as part of a wide cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

His appointment means he will be a member of the European Central Bank's Governing Council.

Stournaras is an economist, a former CEO of a commercial Greek ban, headed Greece's influential think-tank IOBE, and was a government economic adviser when Greece joined the euro zone.

He has been credited with dragging the country back from the brink of bankruptcy when he was appointed finance minister in 2012.

Since then, Greece has steadied its finances and is now expected to return to marginal growth this year after a six-year economic slump - the country's worst peacetime economic crisis.

Under Stournaras, Athens also returned to bond markets in April after a four-year exile with a successful sale of 3 billion euros of bonds and posted a primary budget surplus in 2013, making it eligible for further debt relief by the EU and IMF.

Still, Stournaras has been a magnet for criticism by anti-bailout opposition groups who have attacked him for faithfully implementing the harsh spending cuts demanded under Greece's 237-billion-euro European Union/International Monetary Fund bailout.

Greece's main opposition, leftist Syriza party said earlier on Wednesday it was against Stournaras's appointment because he was a proponent of the austerity policies it rejects.

"Mr. Stournaras will continue to defend the bailout policies from his new post," Syriza spokesman Panos Skourletis was quoted as saying by Greek news website

Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras - emboldened by the party's victory in EU elections in Greece last month - had warned Samaras not to appoint a new governor without consulting him.

Provopoulos, 63, oversaw the recapitalisation of Greece's banking system under the terms of the country's international bailout and had publicly said he wanted a second term. [Reuters]