NEWS

We aim to serve full term, Greek PM says as leftist opposition slams overhaul

Greece’s new government aims to serve a full four-year term, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said Tuesday calling for better coordination between the two remaining parties in the power-sharing coalition.

Addressing the members of his new cabinet in Parliament following a swearing-in ceremony presided over by Greek President Karolos Papoulias at the Presidential Palace earlier in the day, the conservative leader said that the government’s immediate targets include concluding talks with the country’s international creditors, achieving a primary surplus, and preparing for the rotating European Presidency staring in January 2014.

“Our immediate priority is to return to recovery ahead of time, defeat unemployment, bring in investment, avoid new measures and create jobs for the youth,” Samaras said. “We have no choice but to succeed and we are determined to succeed,” he said.

Samaras said the government needs stable steps in order to implement all the necessary reforms. “The country has no time to waste,” he said.

“Each of us has his own political beliefs, but the overriding ideology right now is saving the country,” he said.

ERT dispute

Late Monday Samaras revamped his cabinet after the Democratic Left (DIMAR) party pulled out of the coalition over a dispute concerning public broadcaster ERT leaving him with a tiny majority in the 300-member House.

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras kept his job in the cabinet reshuffle which was announced by government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou who also kept his post.

Speaking to journalists ahead of the first cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Stournaras said PASOK’s presence in the coalition “will make things easier” for the government.

PASOK chief Evangelos Venizelos, Samaras’s only partner in the two-party coalition, assumed the posts of deputy prime minister and foreign minister.

“The people and the economy cannot tolerate any more [austerity] measures,” Venizelos said during the hand-over Tuesday adding that the government must now concentrate on achieving growth and fighting unemployment.

Outgoing foreign minister Dimitris Avramopoulos moved to the Ministry of Defense while New Democracy MP Adonis Georgiadis was put in charge of the country’s Health Ministry.

Pantelis Kapsis, a journalist and former government spokesman under the technocratic government of Lucas Papademos, was given the top post at a new ministry for the state broadcaster and is to be tasked with overhauling the defunct ERT.

Speaking to Mega TV on Tuesday, Kapsis stressed the need for a new public radio and television network that will be “free from political interference and partisan politics.”

“I cannot say how we are going to handle this. I believe that [ERT] employees are part of the solution and I hope that they will too, at some point, come to see it this way,” Kapsis said.

‘Beginning of the end’

Leftist opposition SYRIZA fiercely criticized Monday’s reshuffle saying that the new cabinet signaled “the beginning of the end” for the conservative-led administration.

“The new cabinet is tailor-made for the policies of the memorandum and for the government’s plans to complete the political plundering of incomes and the sell-off of public goods,” the party of Alexis Tsipras said in a statement.

Panos Kammenos, leader of the right-wing anti-bailout Independent Greeks party, said the shake-up would have little effect on the debt-wracked country’s fate.

“As long as troika officials continue to run the country, it does not matter what names are heard in the reshuffle,” he said in a statement.

Also on Tuesday, DIMAR leader Fotis Kouvelis pledged to support the debt-hit country’s structural reform program while hinting that his leftist party was snubbed by the bigger partners in the coalition.

“[DIMAR] will continue to support Greece’s European course as well as the need for reforms so that Greece can exit the crisis,” Kouvelis said.

The leftist leader however criticized the operation of the three-member coalition government suggesting that DIMAR was effectively shut out of decision-making.

“Public affairs were treated with a narrow partisan mentality,” he said.