PM unveils Cabinet to ?exit? crisis
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Thursday unveiled a 39-member cabinet, centered around MPs from his New Democracy party, that he pledged would lead Greece out of the crisis.
Speaking to his ministers shortly after they were sworn in on Thursday evening, Samaras said it was ?a new day.? ?The country has a new government but it?s also a different kind of government of a cross-party nature,? he said, describing it as a ?government of responsibility.?
?This government has no grace period,? he added. ?It must start producing results immediately. Make no mistake, our goal is to extract Greeks from the crisis and ensure that their sacrifices have not been in vain.? Samaras warned his ministers to limit their TV appearances and informed them their salaries would be cut by 30 percent.
The Cabinet consists of 39 ministers and deputy ministers, which is 10 fewer than under interim Premier Lucas Papademos. Despite the government being a product of the cooperation between New Democracy, PASOK and Democratic Left, the Cabinet is dominated by conservatives, who hold 30 of the 39 positions. Of these, 24 are ND deputies and the others are figures associated with the party.
However, the most important appointment was that of Vassilis Rapanos, who is not linked to ND at all but has worked with PASOK governments as a civil servant. Rapanos will be quitting his post as National Bank president to take over as finance minister. Rapanos, a professor at Athens University since the early 1990s, has a long history of working in the public sector, including as a board member at OTE telecom. He is considered to be a specialist in public finances. Rapanos also spent four-and-a-half years in jail during the military dictatorship due to his part in a left-wing resistance group. Rapanos will be sworn in on Saturday, as caretaker Finance Minister Giorgos Zannias had to attend Thursday?s Eurogroup meeting in Luxembourg.
The Cabinet contains a number of conservatives who served in the governments of Costas Karamanlis between 2004 and 2009. These include Dimitris Avramopoulos, Panos Panayiotopoulos, Costis Hatzidakis, Andreas Lykourentzos and Nikos Dendias.
In its first official statement, the new coalition government declared on Friday that its aims were ?to tackle the crisis, pave the way for growth and revise the terms of the loan deal without putting at risk the country?s European course and its position in the eurozone.?
Officials from the three coalition parties continued talks on Thursday with a view to finalizing a policy program, which would also contain the changes Greece will seek to make to its bailout terms. By last night, these proposals had not been made public.
PASOK had decided that none of its MPs would participate in the Cabinet but that it would instead put forward figures associated with the party. During a meeting on Thursday afternoon between Samaras, Venizelos and Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis, the PASOK chief proposed five candidates, all of whom were given government posts. Two were made ministers: Evangelos Livieratos and Athanasios Tsaftsaris. Three PASOK choices were made deputy ministers: Dimitris Kourkoulas, Dimitris Elefsiniotis, Giorgos Vernikos.
Venizelos had wanted caretaker Finance Minister Zannias to continue as a deputy to Rapanos but Zannias said he wanted to leave office. PASOK was expected to keep caretaker Agriculture Minister Napoleon Maraveyias and Development Minister Yiannis Stournaras in the government but Venizelos did not request that they be part of the new cabinet. It was not clear what had prompted this change of heart.