Cabinet for reform and Athens 2004

As was widely expected, following the sidelining of dissenters within the PASOK party at the recent congress, the new Cabinet that will be sworn in today bears the stamp of Prime Minister Costas Simitis. He has moved around the senior ministers of the past few years and raised Nikos Christodoulakis, who moves from the Development Ministry to National Economy and Finance just as it replaces the Interior Ministry as the senior one in terms of protocol. Simitis did not give any of his ministers the opportunity to discuss, to bargain or to reject his decisions. At the same time, he did not remove some of the old faces and he brought in 20 new ones, achieving a Cabinet that represents almost every geographical section of the country – most likely with an eye on the local government elections in a year’s time. This has resulted in one of the biggest Cabinets in the history of PASOK governments, with 48 ministers and deputy ministers, aside from Simitis. The Cabinet will be sworn in at the Presidential Palace at 11.30 this morning. The reformist camp is greatly strengthened, with the rise of Christodoulakis – who replaces Yiannos Papantoniou who, in turn, benefits from his jump to the Defense Ministry. Dimitris Reppas has been called on to handle the big problem of social security reform, moving to the Labor Ministry from the Press Ministry, where, in a surprising twist, he is succeeded by former Deputy Labor Minister Christos Protopappas. Vasso Papandreou moves from the Interior Ministry to the Public Works Ministry, where she will be responsible for the major projects under way. Costas Skandalidis, who is succeeded as PASOK general secretary by Costas Laliotis, takes over the Interior Ministry in time to prepare for next year’s municipal and provincial elections. Giorgos Drys was made agriculture minister from deputy finance minister. A special emphasis will be placed on the Athens 2004 Olympics, with Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who has overall supervision of them, keeping his portfolio. His deputy minister, Nassos Alevras, will be responsible for the Olympics, and Deputy Press Minister Telemachos Hytiris will take care of communications for the Games. Akis Tsochadzopoulos, the main spokesman for the resistance to Simitis in the party, has been downgraded, being moved from the Defense Ministry to the Development Ministry. Christos Papoutsis, the outgoing minister of Merchant Marine, who had often opposed Simitis’s policies, is out of the Cabinet. So is Theodoros Pangalos, who seemed certain of a portfolio until he went against Simitis’s order on Monday not to run for a seat on PASOK’s Executive Bureau – where he lost his bid. Structural reforms expected The composition of the new Cabinet and the promotion of Nikos Christodoulakis as head of the National Economy and Finance Ministry raises expectations of the acceleration in structural changes. Both as development minister, and in statements yesterday, Christodoulakis indicated that he was keen on a second generation of structural reforms. He is strongly in favor of open markets and a strong supporter of the Greek economy’s swift adaptation to the competitive environment of the euro. He is expected to create, with greater urgency, the necessary conditions for the country’s economic forces to regroup. His cooperation with Akis Tsochadzopoulos, who succeeds him at the Development Ministry, will be crucial, on issues such as energy deregulation. Illegal immigrants. Coast guard patrols off the islands of Kos and Chios arrested a total of 24 Afghan and Iraqi illegal immigrants yesterday, both on land and in the sea. Meanwhile, an Athens court sentenced Turkish human traffickers Basil Adem and Bilici Cihat to 10 years’ imprisonment each for trying to smuggle 97 illegal immigrants into Greece on Sunday. They were also fined 101 million drachmas each.

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