NEWS

Minister’s future unclear

Fresh doubts about the future of Employment Minister Vassilis Magginas were raised yesterday as the premier failed to provide outright backing for the minister, who is set to be the target of another round of newspaper allegations this weekend. Speaking in Lisbon, where he had been attending the signing of the European Union treaty, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis repeatedly dodged questions about Magginas. The employment minister has already had to field a barrage of questions about an Indian family living at one of his homes. Magginas said they were his guests, denying newspaper reports that they were uninsured migrants who were working for him. A report tomorrow is expected to suggest that there are a number of building violations at the property in Koropi, northeast of Athens. Magginas responded immediately to the rumors and issued a statement denying that there was anything illegal about the house and that his construction permit is completely legal. «The ‘revelations’ continue,» said the minister in a statement. «Few people can now doubt the reasons for these personal attacks. Greek society can evaluate and judge for itself.» Magginas has spearheaded the unpopular proposals for pension reforms, which has seen him become the target of criticism from opposition parties and unions. However, sources indicated that discussions between high-ranking government officials during the week had led to the conclusion that Magginas had handled the issue well so far and that he should be fully supported. Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros insisted to journalists in Athens yesterday that the prime minister had complete faith in Magginas. But it seems that the sentiment had changed by yesterday evening and without the backing of the premier, pressure will grow on Magginas to step down. If he does resign, Magginas will be the third employment minister to lose his job in less than four years. His predecessor Savvas Tsitouridis resigned in April, at the height of the overpriced bond scandal. Tsitouridis had replaced Panos Panagiotopoulos, who was removed from the post in a cabinet reshuffle in February 2006.