Foreign trade ‘dispute’

Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday named Andreas Loverdos, a member of Parliament for Piraeus and professor of constitutional law, to replace Yiannis Zafeiropoulos who resigned as deputy minister of foreign affairs responsible for foreign trade relations. Zafeiropoulos said that he had resigned because of total disagreement with Foreign Minister George Papandreou over policy regarding Greece’s international economic relations. Observers, however, believed that the resignation was inevitable following Simitis’s decision to move Zafeiropoulos from the National Economy Ministry, where he was responsible for the same issues, to the Foreign Ministry in the Cabinet reshuffle of last October. Months after the move, Zafeiropoulos had still not been given an office in the Foreign Ministry. At the same time, some 250 aides from the National Economy Ministry were said to be boycotting the move to the Foreign Ministry because this would have resulted in their losing the many lucrative bonuses that employees of the Economy and Finance ministries receive. Foreign Ministry employees, also, were opposed to the influx of new colleagues because this would have overturned the ministry’s hierarchy. For example, the two general directors and eight directors moving across Syntagma Square would have had to take up positions equal in rank to ambassadors with many years of experience. But the most important issue appeared to be that of the sharing of power, with Zafeiropoulos’s senior aides saying that they did not want to hand over to the Foreign Ministry the department of international economic relations, especially with regard to the section dealing with the World Trade Organization which handles huge amounts of funds. It appears that that is also where Foreign Minister Papandreou and National Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis disagreed, with the latter reported to believe that the responsibilities that would be moved to the Foreign Ministry were excessive. Papandreou’s close aides angrily rejected suggestions that Zafeiropoulos had left because of a disagreement over how to fund non-governmental organizations. They countered that the problem was that Zafeiropoulos had wanted to create a directorate to promote and evaluate companies in the Balkans (which the Foreign Ministry did not have the infrastructure to support) as well as a «bureaucratic» bill he had prepared recently. Simitis, who had discussed the issue with Zafeiropoulos last Thursday, expressed regret that the latter had not been able to work with Papandreou. New Democracy’s spokeswoman for foreign affairs, Dora Bakoyianni, said that the issue showed «the continual policy deficit and malfunctioning within the government.»

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