PM seeks fresh start and unity with cabi­net reshuf­fle

Evan­ge­los Venize­los leaves de­fense port­fo­lio to as­sume role of fi­nance min­is­ter

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Prime Min­is­ter Ge­orge Pa­pan­dreou yes­ter­day con­ducted a cabi­net reshuf­fle in a bid to re­vi­tal­ize his tired gov­ern­ment and boost unity within his party, mov­ing De­fense Min­is­ter Evan­ge­los Venize­los to the Fi­nance Min­istry to re­place Gior­gos Pa­pa­con­stanti­nou, who has spear­headed Greece’s flag­ging aus­ter­ity drive.

Ad­dress­ing the in­au­gu­ral session of his new Cabi­net yes­ter­day, Pa­pan­dreou said the reshuf­fle had been nec­es­sary “to sig­nal a restart.”

Sources told Kathimerini that the reshuf­fle had been on the cards since last week­end but had been put on hold as the premier made a fourth at­tempt to se­cure a con­sen­sus with the main op­po­si­tion party New Democ­racy.

Apart from gaug­ing the re­sponse of So­cial­ist lawmakers to the reshuf­fle, a vote of con­fi­dence sched­uled to take place in Par­lia­ment Tues­day is ex­pected to as­sess ap­proval among MPs for the gov­ern­ment’s midterm fis­cal pro­gram, which is to be ap­proved in Par­lia­ment be­fore the end of this month.

Venize­los was broadly re­garded as the sig­nif­i­cant ap­point­ment in a reshuf­fle that saw few new fig­ures brought into the gov­ern­ment and in­volved many min­is­ters swap­ping port­fo­lios and oth­ers be­ing ousted.

Over­all, the Cabi­net was trimmed down to 42 peo­ple from 49.

The So­cial­ist vet­eran, who chal­lenged Pa­pan­dreou for the lead­er­ship of PASOK in 2007, has also been ap­pointed deputy prime min­is­ter along­side Theodoros Pan­ga­los.

Venize­los said he was ready to un­der­take the “his­toric chal­lenge” of ex­tract­ing Greece from its debt cri­sis. “I am leav­ing de­fense to go where the real battle is,” he told a joint press con­fer­ence with his pre­de­ces­sor Pa­pa­con­stanti­nou.

Pa­pa­con­stanti­nou, for his part, said he was “ex­tremely happy” to be hand­ing over the task of re­viv­ing the coun­try’s be- lea­guered econ­omy to a col­league with “ex­pe­ri­ence and ded­i­ca­tion.” Ad­mit­ting that he had made “mis­takes and short­falls” dur­ing his ten­ure as fi­nance min­is­ter, Pa­pa­con­stanti­nou said he was proud to have con­trib­uted to “keep­ing the coun­try on its feet and putting into mo­tion a se­ries of im­por­tant eco­nomic re­forms.”

Op­po­si­tion par­ties yes­ter­day slammed the reshuf­fle as a failed at­tempt to re­vive the be­lea­guered gov­ern­ment’s for­tunes.

The re­moval of Pa­pa­con­stanti­nou from the post of fi­nance min­is­ter amounted to an ad­mis­sion by the gov­ern­ment that its eco­nomic pol­icy had failed, said ND spokesman Yian­nis Michelakis.

The Coali­tion of the Rad­i­cal Left (SYRIZA) said no reshuf­fle could stop “the gov­ern­ment slid­ing into com­plete col­lapse” while the Com­mu­nist Party de­scribed the new ad­min­is­tra­tion as “dan­ger­ous.”

All the par­ties will have the chance to voice their opin­ions in Par­lia­ment from to­mor­row, when a de­bate will be­gin ahead of Tues­day’s vote.

Newly ap­pointed Fi­nance Min­is­ter Evan­ge­los Venize­los ad­dressed re­porters dur­ing a joint press con­fer­ence yes­ter­day with his pre­de­ces­sor Gior­gos Pa­pa­con­stanti­nou. Venize­los ‘ cred­ited’ Pa­pa­con­stanti­nou with shoul­der­ing ‘the heav­i­est bur­den of all’ in the gov­ern­ment’s aus­ter­ity drive.

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