New ministries handed over

Louka Katseli took over the newly established Economy, Competitiveness and Merchant Marine Ministry yesterday promising to place consumer protection and investment support schemes among her top priorities. During the handover of the ministry, she moved to allay concerns from the shipping sector over the merging of the Merchant Marine and Development ministries. She said talks will be held with all shipping groups in order to help support a sector that contributes about 8 percent to Greece’s annual gross domestic product. Reactions from industry groups to the decision were mixed. The president of London’s Greek Shipping Cooperation Committee, Epaminondas Embiricos, told Lloyd’s List that Greek shipping needs an independent ministry with the participation of the Hellenic Coast Guard. On the other hand, ferry operators described the decision as being positive, saying that the sector is an important employer group that can help the economy recover. Among the first issues Katseli will be called upon to handle is strike action at the Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) in reaction to the China’s Cosco taking over the cargo managment services at the port. Katseli, 57, served as economic adviser to Prime Minister-elect George Papandreou’s father, socialist PASOK party founder Andreas, between 1993 and 1996. A Princeton graduate, Katseli taught economics at Yale and worked for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Meanwhile, Giorgos Papaconstantinou took over the helm of the Finance Ministry. After meeting with outgoing minister Yiannis Papathanassiou, he told journalists he had been briefed on urgent ministry issues and will now hold meetings with senior officials. Papaconstantinou, 47, who studied at the London School of Economics and New York University, was Papandreou’s economic adviser from 2004-07 and party spokesman after that.