Limited cabinet reshuffle on the cards

A mini-reshuffle of the cabinet is on the cards, a government official has indicated following a decision by authorities to revoke plans to put the Alternate Citizens’ Protection Ministry under the auspices of the Justice Ministry.

The amendment foreseeing the Citizens’ Protection Ministry’s move was revoked, Interior Minister Nikos Voutsis told Parliament on Wednesday, noting that plans for it to become part of the Justice Ministry had been reversed due to fears that they “might create more problems than they solve.”

A senior government official said other changes, including autonomy for the Culture Ministry and a change of faces in the cabinet, are expected after a Eurogroup summit on April 24 in the Latvian capital of Riga, where progress in Greece’s negotiations with creditors is likely to be discussed.

Sources at the Citizens’ Protection Ministry said shifting the supervision of the Greek Police to the Justice Ministry would provoke serious problems with the operation of asylum services, which are currently overseen by the Alternate Immigration Policy Ministry, which itself comes under the umbrella of the Interior Ministry. Moving the General Secretariat of Civil Protection and the fire service under Justice Ministry would also cause problems, according to the same sources, who denied that differences between Voutsis and Citizens’ Protection Minister Yiannis Panousis prompted the decision.

In comments to reporters on Wednesday, Panousis expressed concern about violent protests in Athens on Tuesday but noted that the problem was a chronic one. “There’s been unrest in Exarchia for 40 years now and none of the governments of the current opposition managed to solve the problem,” he said. Police detained 21 people after the clashes late Tuesday, nine of whom were arrested on charges including arson, grievous bodily harm and damaging public property.

Slogans that were spray-painted on walls near Parliament by some of the rioters were erased on Wednesday. Meanwhile City Hall is said to be running low on trash dumpsters, which are regularly burned during protests. Over the past two years, some 2,500 bins have been destroyed.

Separately, the academic authorities of Athens University on Wednesday complained about a 10-day sit-in by anti-establishment protesters at the institution’s main administrative building, describing it as “unprecedented for a European country.”

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