Ministry handover fuels reform vows

The handover of ministries to the new government on Wednesday prompted a barrage of announcements essentially undoing reforms passed by previous administrations.

Interior Minister Nikos Voutsis and Alternate Administrative Reform Minister Giorgos Katrougalos said their priority was the immediate rehiring of 10,000 civil servants who were either fired or put into a mobility scheme.

Justice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos heralded changes to existing legislation relating to social justice in a bid to boost the rights of weaker social groups and indicated that he would look to reform the country’s penitentiary system, having expressed his opposition to plans for the creation of maximum-security prisons. “Justice must support the weak,” he said, noting that “strictness should be coupled with leniency.” He said he aimed to move toward policy reform “without forgetting the significance of the Constitution and the rule of law.”

In assuming his post, Voutsis broached the government’s plans to partially disarm the police, referring to legislation dating to 1996 according to which police officers on duty at demonstrations or soccer games “should not be armed with pistols.” Voutsis said the police’s “presence and mentality” in recent years had become “authoritarian.”

Deputy Citizens’ Protection Minister Yiannis Panousis said his key aim was to boost the relationship between the Greek Police and democracy, starting with the removal of the crush barriers outside Parliament, which were taken away later in the day. “Why have barriers outside Parliament? What are we scared of? That the people will break in to Parliament?” Panousis’s predecessor Vassilis Kikilias made a dig at SYRIZA for not congratulating the outgoing administration on its recent crackdown on terrorism.

Panayiotis Lafazanis, minister of production reconstruction, environment and energy, emphasized that he had significant reforms in mind. “With the new government, two things finish here and now: the troika and the memorandums,” he said, adding that all implementation laws for troika-mandated reforms would be “gradually canceled.”

Health Minister Panayiotis Kouroublis also struck a tough tone, saying he would demand detailed reports from the heads of administrative units in the health sector and would also seek “lots” of resignations. His ministry is also considering abolishing the 5-euro visiting fee at hospitals.