The government was on the defensive Thursday, following the departure of Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias from the cabinet in the wake of a spat with Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, with officials insisting that the move was Kotzias’s initiative and expressing surprise.
Meanwhile the main conservative opposition New Democracy party called on both Kotzias and Kammenos to provide explanations for demands that ministry funds be investigated.
ND issued its statement after Parliament Speaker Nikos Voutsis suggested he would reject a proposal that Kotzias is said to be planning for an investigation of the secret funds of all Greek ministries. Kotzias was said to be planning the proposal after Kammenos reportedly accused him of mismanaging secret Foreign Ministry funds during the tense cabinet meeting that led to Kotzias’s ejection from the government.
In comments to reporters, Voutsis said he did not know whether ministries other than the Foreign Ministry maintained secret funds. He also suggested that both Kammenos and Kotzias ought to clarify their respective statements.
MPs of the centrist Movement for Change called on Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to clarify whether Kotzias quit over claims relating to mismanagement of funds.
Government officials sought to stress that Kotzias’s departure did not signal a crisis in the administration. In comments to state television, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said Tsipras had not chosen Kammenos, his coalition partner, over Kotzias, stating that Kotzias’s departure was voluntary. He added that it was “entirely incomprehensible” as the government remained committed to the Prespes name deal with Skopje that Kotzias signed.
The general secretary of leftist SYRIZA, Panos Skourletis, struck a similar tone, saying he did not understand why Kotzias had left.