Interim gov?t faces up to crisis

A new unity government led by Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, a former vice president of the European Central Bank, was sworn in on Friday with key ministers from the outgoing Socialist administration, including Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, keeping their posts and several members of conservative New Democracy and the right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) joining the mix.

The members of the new government — which must secure crucial rescue funding for the country and push through more tough reforms — were sworn in at a ceremony conducted by Archbishop Ieronymos.

Venizelos was kept in place as were several other ministers in a number of key posts that will have to continue implementing tough austerity measures demanded by foreign creditors. They include Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou, Health Minister Andreas Loverdos, Environment and Energy Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou and Development Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis.

Other cabinet changes included the appointment as interior minister of Tassos Yiannitsis, a veteran PASOK MP who has served in several ministries. He replaces Haris Kastanidis.

New Democracy contributed six party members to the new cabinet, notably Stavros Dimas — a former European environment commissioner — and Dimitris Avramopoulos as foreign and defense ministers respectively. Dimas replaces Stavros Lambrinidis, an MEP. Avramopoulos, who has served as health and tourism minister under previous ND governments, resigned as an Athens MP before assuming the ministry post.

One LAOS MP, Makis Voridis, was appointed transport minister, with another three LAOS deputies taking deputy positions.

Venizelos and Theodoros Pangalos kept their posts as deputies to the prime minister, while Giorgos Stavropoulos, a member of the Council of State, replaced Ilias Mossialos as government spokesman.

After the swearing-in ceremony, Papademos convened the Cabinet?s inaugural session before the process of handing over the separate ministries got under way. A confidence vote in the new government is expected on Tuesday night, according to Skai radio.

The focus of vehement criticism by the left-wing opposition, the new cabinet was hailed by the coalition members. Venizelos said it signaled ?a change in the country?s political culture.? ND leader Antonis Samaras said it showed his party had achieved four key goals — to avert a referendum on the EU?s debt deal, to change the prime minister, to create an interim government that would secure rescue funding and to lead the country to early elections.

The announcement of the new cabinet was welcomed by European leaders. French President Nicolas Sarkozy sent a letter of congratulations to Papademos.

?In this crucial period, where so much is at stake, I am certain that you will make a point of taking all of the necessary measures so that Greece continues to play its full role in a strong and united Europe, loyal to its ideals,? Sarkozy wrote.

Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker also hailed the new unity administration, saying he was ?very satisfied that Greece now has a stable national unity government.? ?I am confident that the new Greek government, which has a large majority in Parliament, will not leave a shadow of a doubt on its commitment to pull Greece out of the serious situation it finds itself in and that it will honor all its commitments to the eurozone,? Juncker said in a statement.