European Union-funded apprenticeship programs that have given more than 20,000 young people temporary jobs in the public sector are being scrapped by the government. Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos said yesterday after a meeting with four ministers that the scheme, known by the French term «Stage,» would no longer be utilized to hire people in the public sector or at the local government level. The «Stage» system was at the center of controversy during the election campaign when PASOK accused the then New Democracy government of using the scheme to win votes by allegedly hiring hundreds of new interns to curry favor with the conservative party’s supporters. Pangalos referred to this when he said that any hirings made after the date of the general elections had been set would be declared null and void, as they «were clearly made for vote-winning reasons.» The deputy premier went on to say that the contracts of the remaining 23,000 people currently carrying out their apprenticeships in the public sector would not be renewed when they run out. Instead, the government will hire people to fill vacancies on short-term contracts and any hirings would be handled by the Supreme Council for Personnel Selection (ASEP), the state body that handles applications for jobs in the public sector. When questioned about whether PASOK feared that some of the apprentices might decide to sue, Pangalos said that the government had examined the legal implications and believes that it would not lose in court. He added that the «Stage» scheme would continue in the private sector, where the wages of apprentices are covered by EU funds, but that firms would not be allowed to sack staff to take on interns.