Old faces dominate new Greek Cabinet

Newly re-elected Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (left) at the oath-taking ceremony with President Prokopis Pavlopoulos in Athens.
Newly re-elected Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (left) at the oath-taking ceremony with President Prokopis Pavlopoulos in Athens. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Re-elected PM returns key finance post to pro-euro zone economist

ATHENS • Greece's freshly elected Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has unveiled his new Cabinet in which the key finance portfolio is given back to Mr Euclid Tsakalotos, a left-wing economist determined to keep Greece in the euro zone.

The 55-year-old Oxford-educated Mr Tsakalotos faces the thankless task of steering a slew of unpopular economic reforms agreed by Mr Tsipras with Europe's leaders in July, in return for Greece's third financial rescue in five years.

The new Cabinet announced on Tuesday is largely a carbon copy of Mr Tsipras' previous left-wing government.

The boyish charismatic leader resigned last month after only seven months in office when anti-euro hardliners in his Syriza party rebelled over the much-maligned financial rescue, stripping him of his majority.

But Mr Tsipras confounded his critics, romping to a clear re-election victory on Sunday.

  • KEY MINISTERS


  • FINANCE/BAILOUT

    • Topping the list as Finance Minister is Mr Euclid Tsakalotos, a choice offering continuity in bailout talks and likely to go down well among Greece's euro zone partners. Under the previous Tsipras government, Mr Tsakalotos helped steer the bailout discussions with Greece's creditors that produced its €86 billion (S$136 billion) loan accord in August.

    • Mr Tsakalotos' deputy is Mr George Chouliarakis, also a respected member of the bailout negotiation team who served as interim finance minister during the election campaign.


    MIGRANTS/REFUGEES

    • Taking charge of this portfolio within the Interior Ministry to handle Greece's huge refugee problem is Dr Ioannis Mouzalas, another member of the caretaker government who was retained as Migration Minister. An active member of the Doctors of the World charity, Dr Mouzalas has taken part in relief missions to trouble spots including Kobane in Syria.


    FOREIGN AFFAIRS

    • Mr Nikos Kotzias, once a member of Greece's Communist Youth, was reappointed Foreign Minister. Like other senior Syriza officials, he has portrayed Greece as a victim of foreign interests. ENERGY

    • Mr Panos Skourletis was named Energy Minister. On the eve of the announcement of a snap election last month, he suspended the permit for a disputed Canadian-run gold mine project in northern Greece.



  • DEFENCE

    • Independent Greeks leader Panos Kammenos, the junior party in Mr Tsipras' coalition, was named Defence Minister. He founded the party in 2012 when he defected from the conservative New Democracy party in protest over the second bailout. The outspoken Mr Kammenos has criticised the bailout as destroying Greece's sovereignty.


    MARITIME

    • Mr Theodoris Dritsas returns as Maritime Minister. Days after Mr Tsipras took over in January, Mr Dritsas said he would halt the sale of a majority stake in the port of Piraeus, Greece's biggest. The sale is back on track.

    REUTERS

Five seats short of a majority in the 300-member Parliament, he once again formed a coalition with his partner in the previous government - the nationalist Independent Greeks party.

Mr Panos Kammenos, who heads the right-wing party, was given the defence portfolio again.

Mr Nikos Kotzias returns to the foreign ministry.

The key migration portfolio remains with Mr Ioannis Mouzalas within the new government, which has 16 ministers and 30 deputy ministers, but only four women.

Mr Tsipras had vowed to have the government up and running before heading to Brussels yesterday to join European Union (EU) leaders for talks on the migrant crisis.

The 41-year-old, whose Syriza party was elected in January on an anti-austerity plank, has said he finally agreed to the harsh belt- tightening measures set by the cash-for-reform agreement to keep Greece in the euro zone.

Topping his agenda is the need to push through as quickly as possible the austerity measures demanded by creditors from the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to boost growth and to enhance Athens' credibility in foreign eyes.

In Brussels, Mr Tsipras is expected to meet European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, who reminded Athens to move ahead with economic reform, saying: "There's a lot of work ahead and no time to lose."

The clock is ticking, with a review due late next month by the lenders on whether Athens is abiding by the reform programme.

At stake for the new government will be the release of a new €3 billion (S$4.7 billion) tranche of aid.

This would hopefully allow the administration to achieve its goal of opening negotiations to reduce Greece's whopping debt.

The IMF said in a statement: "We welcome the completion of the electoral process in Greece and look forward to working with the new government on the policies needed to put Greece on a path for sustainable growth."

In the new Cabinet, implementation of reforms package, which will affect everything from the price of bread to a visit to the doctor, will be in the hands of deputy finance minister George Chouliarakis, who helped negotiate the package.

Mr Tsipras also hopes to strengthen Syriza's left-wing credentials by fighting the systemic corruption and cronyism that has tainted Greek political life for decades, while tackling the migrant crisis with more efficiency and humanity.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 24, 2015, with the headline 'Old faces dominate new Greek Cabinet'. Print Edition | Subscribe