NEWS

Karamanlis demands government unity

The new Cabinet was sworn in yesterday and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis immediately called for his ministers to stick together and push on with the reforms the conservatives have already begun. «Understanding, coordination and togetherness on the path of reforms,» Karamanlis said as he addressed his Cabinet. «We are moving forward together and in step with each other, with a joint political aim.» The premier admitted there had been some problems with his government. «There have been some weaknesses in the past,» he said. «I accept that some of my decisions were not pleasant, either for citizens or for us.» New Democracy’s reforms in the labor and public sectors have met with opposition, especially from unions, but Karamanlis told his new Cabinet that it was vital they continued the same policies. The prime minister asked that reforms, such as privatization of public companies, be speeded up and that the law ending jobs for life at public utilities be put into effect immediately. Karamanlis, however, asked that changes be achieved with the broadest consensus possible, aware that his party will go to the polls in general elections at some point during the next 25 months. Initial indications are that the reshuffle, in the short-term at least, will boost the government’s popularity, which has been flagging lately. According to an opinion poll conducted by VPRC on behalf of Skai Radio yesterday, 44 percent of respondents said they had a positive impression of the reshuffle compared to 13 percent who said they felt negative. However, the survey also suggested that 47 percent of voters believe the reshuffle would not change anything. Seven in 10 of those questioned felt the changes in the Cabinet were necessary and Dora Bakoyannis, the new foreign minister, was the most popular newcomer with 82 percent approving her appointment. Karamanlis made it clear yesterday that he wants Bakoyannis to continue in the footsteps of her predecessor, Petros Molyviatis, especially in Greece’s support of Cyprus. Bakoyannis accompanied Karamanlis on a trip to Berlin yesterday, where the prime minister met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Thanks to a last-minute arrangement, Bakoyannis also held talks with her counterpart, Franz-Walter Steinmeier. In Athens, meanwhile, ministers took up the reins at their new posts. A tearful Nikitas Kaklamanis gave up his seat at the Health Ministry to Dimitris Avramopoulos, who admitted he had a tough task on his hands. «It seems that it is my political fate that I be chosen to take on difficult tasks,» Avramopoulos said. Giorgos Voulgarakis, who has moved to the Culture Ministry from Public Order after coming under fire, recognized the pressure he had been under. «There were exceptionally good moments but difficult ones as well,» he said.