Head swap halts talk of reshuf­fle as re­forms eyed

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Prime Min­is­ter An­to­nis Sa­ma­ras yes­ter­day ap­pointed Nikos Den­dias as de­fense min­is­ter, re­plac­ing out­go­ing Dim­itris Avramopou­los, who as­sumes the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion’s im­mi­gra­tion port­fo­lio next week, with Costas Skrekas to take over Den­dias’s spot at the helm of the De­vel­op­ment Min­istry.

The head swap doused spec­u­la­tion about Sa­ma­ras as­sum­ing the cru­cial post of de­fense min­is­ter him­self, with sources in­di­cat­ing that a widely ru­mored broader reshuf­fle was also off the ta­ble. Sa­ma­ras is said to have re­jected pro­pos­als to un­der­take the top spot at the De­fense Min­istry so that he can de­vote his full at­ten­tion to cru­cial ne­go­ti­a­tions with Greece’s troika of in­ter­na­tional lenders as Athens presses for an early dis­en­gage­ment from the mem­o­ran­dum.

Den­dias, 55, is close to Sa­ma­ras and is widely re­garded as an ex­pe­ri­enced con­ser­va­tive law­maker able to han­dle the pres­sure of the crit­i­cal de­fense port­fo­lio at a time of ris­ing ten­sions in the broader re­gion. Skrekas, a 41-year-old New Democ­racy MP for Trikala in cen­tral Greece, is less ex­pe­ri­enced but has very close ties to Sa­ma­ras and the premier’s in­ner cir­cle. Both men are to be sworn in to their new posts on Mon­day.

Com­ment­ing yes­ter­day after be­ing in­formed of his ap­point­ment by Sa­ma­ras, Skrekas said his chief pri­or­ity would be to boost growth in the Greek econ­omy, which re­mains slug­gish although a grad­ual up­turn, of 0.6 per­cent, is fore­cast for this year. Skrekas will be plunged in at the deep end when troika mis­sion chiefs ar­rive in Athens to dis­cuss a range of pend­ing eco­nomic re­forms. Teams of tech­ni­cal staff are due in Athens next week with the mis­sion chiefs to follow, pos­si­bly as early as the end of next week, and re­sume their lat­est au­dit of Greek fi­nances.

One of the con­tentious is­sues Skrekas must dis­cuss with the troika is how to deal with bil­lions of euros in non­per­form­ing cor­po­rate loans held by Greek lenders.

Out­go­ing De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Den­dias is to sub­mit a leg­isla­tive pro­posal for cor­po­rate NPLs in Par­lia­ment on Mon­day be­fore he is sworn in to his new post.

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