NEWS

Reshuffle off the agenda

Rumors of an imminent Cabinet reshuffle to reinvigorate the Karamanlis government after a turbulent period were played down yesterday as the ruling conservatives set about tackling one of the most contentious issues in Greek politics: reform of the social security system. After a weekend rife with claims about which ministers were to face the axe and which rising stars would grab a seat in the Cabinet, the government moved to stop the rumor mill yesterday. «There is no need for a reshuffle,» said Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas after meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. Sioufas also poured cold water on suggestions that a minister would be given the role of Cabinet coordinator in a bid to create greater unity in the government and put an end to bickering between ministers. «I have said it before that no minister in the government needs to take on such a role. The government is progressing well,» said Sioufas. Karamanlis may introduce some changes soon though, as government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos admitted yesterday that the government was examining the possibility of bringing back the crisis management committee that was in place during last year’s Athens Olympics. The committee acted as a coordinating tool between the various ministries, with each government department being represented. «We are thinking about having the coordinating council in operation,» said Roussopoulos. An indication of how seriously Karamanlis is taking the current situation is that he has ordered Roussopoulos to stay in Athens rather than join him on an official visit to Japan. The premier is due to leave tomorrow but wants Roussopoulos to stay behind to manage any problems that might arise in his absence, sources told Kathimerini. Meanwhile, apparently unperturbed by the negative climate, the government yesterday said that it was taking further tentative steps toward finding a solution to Greece’s social security conundrum. The government said in April that it was handing the Economic and Social Council (OKE) the task of coming up with suggestions for how Greece can avoid running into a social security impasse in the relatively near future. OKE is made up of representatives of labor unions, local government, agricultural cooperatives and employer groups. Yesterday Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis and Labor Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos said they had given OKE the go-ahead to launch a set of studies into the problem. The ministers also invited civil servants’ union ADEDY and the reluctant General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE) to the negotiating table. Panayiotopoulos said that yesterday’s initiative would lead to a «long-term» dialogue that would last beyond the government’s current term in office, which is due to last until 2008.