PM takes 2004 helm

In a dramatic show of the importance he places on speeding up preparations for the Olympic Games, Prime Minister-elect Costas Karamanlis yesterday named himself culture minister in the new Cabinet to be sworn in today. The Culture Ministry has overall supervision of the Games’ preparations and, with the support of three senior aides, Karamanlis can be expected to function as an «Olympics minister» in the effort to prepare Athens in time for the August Games. On another major issue needing immediate attention – Cyprus – Karamanlis opted for experience, naming Petros Molyviatis as foreign minister. The 76-year-old veteran diplomat was the foreign policy adviser of the new prime minister’s uncle and namesake in the 1970s. Karamanlis named Anna Psarouda-Benaki as speaker of Parliament. The law professor will be the first woman to hold the third-highest office in the land, after those of president and prime minister. The 47-member Cabinet will be sworn-in at a ceremony before President Costis Stephanopoulos at 11 a.m. today and will hold its first meeting at 12.30 p.m., after Simitis hands over to Karamanlis in another ceremony. Thirty-five Cabinet members, including Karamanlis, will be in government for the first time as the conservative New Democracy has been out of power since 1993. This is the first time a prime minister has held the culture portfolio himself, although outgoing Prime Minister Costas Simitis had undertaken overall supervision of the Games preparations as well. It will also be the first time the ministry has an «alternate minister,» a post between full minister and deputy minister, to which ND’s former Olympics spokeswoman, Fanni Palli-Petralia, was appointed. New Democracy won 45.37 percent of the vote in Sunday’s elections and 165 seats in the 300-member Parliament, largely on promises of improving the daily lives of citizens. In an effort to emphasize the attention his government will pay to these issues, he changed the name of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security to Employment and Social Protection, Health and Welfare to Health and Social Solidarity, and Agriculture to Agricultural Development and Food. Karamanlis also scrapped the Press Ministry, naming his close aide and spokesman, Theodoros Roussopoulos, state minister instead. He established a Tourism Ministry. Giorgos Voulgarakis was named to head the Ministry of Public Order, a key position that will deal with Olympic security. Last September, an anarchist gang claimed responsibility for firebombing Voulgarakis’s home, endangering his wife and children, in what the attackers said was a protest against the Olympics and in solidarity with suspected terrorists then on trial. Also, Karamanlis appointed MP Stavros Dimas, a former industry minister, to be Greece’s member of the European Commission. PASOK’s Commissioner, Anna Diamantopoulou was elected to the Greek Parliament. The White House yesterday congratulated Karamanlis on his election. «We look forward to deepening our cooperation with Greece and with the prime minister-elect’s new government on key issues, such as forging a Cyprus settlement by May 1, security for this summer’s Olympics in Athens and regional stability,» spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters.

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