New Tsipras government takes oath of office in Greece: TV

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (left) attends the oath-taking ceremony with Greece's President Prokopis Pavlopoulos in Athens on Sept 21, 2015.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (left) attends the oath-taking ceremony with Greece's President Prokopis Pavlopoulos in Athens on Sept 21, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

ATHENS (AFP) - The new left-wing government of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras took office on Wednesday with a core of returning ministers pledging to restart the country's flagging economy.

Sending a signal to creditors, Tsipras kept the same team that negotiated the country's latest EU bailout but the incoming administration also has to address a burgeoning migration crisis.

Pro-euro Euclid Tsakalotos retains the finance ministry portfolio while George Houliarakis, the reclusive expert who led the country's rocky bailout negotiations with EU and IMF experts, has been appointed junior finance minister.

"Our goal is recovery and reconstruction," deputy prime minister Yiannis Dragasakis told reporters before the ceremony.

"We have the prerequisites to overcome the difficulties," he said.

Tsipras is expected to fly to Brussels late on Wednesday for an emergency summit on the migration crisis, a day after EU ministers forced through a controversial deal to relocate 120,000 refugees, angering several member states in the process.

The new Greek cabinet is largely a carbon copy of the previous government headed by Tsipras, who resigned in August after seven months in office after losing his majority when anti-euro hardliners in his Syriza party quit in anger over the reform-and-rescue deal.

The liberal daily Kathimerini said on Wednesday that Tsipras had been careful to reward loyal Syriza cadres who supported him against the hardliners.

"Tsipras' basic criterion was to keep the balance in his party... and reward those who stood at his side on the bailout issue," the daily said.

Panos Kammenos, the boisterous head of the nationalist Independent Greeks party in the government coalition, was once again given the defence portfolio.

Nikos Kotzias, the former senior Communist who clashed with EU peers over the Ukraine crisis, returns to the foreign ministry, and the key migration portfolio remains in the hands of Ioannis Mouzalas, who as interim minister before the election helped ease pressure on Greek islands swamped by refugee arrivals.

The new government has 16 ministers and 30 deputy ministers, but only four women including the spokeswoman.

- Economic reform tops agenda

Topping Greece's agenda is the need to push through as quickly as possible the painful austerity measures demanded by Greece's EU-IMF creditors, in order to boost growth and to enhance Athens' credibility in foreign eyes.

This hopefully in a second stage would allow the Tsipras administration to achieve its goal of opening negotiations to reduce Greece's soaring debt.

In a statement sent to AFP, the IMF said it was looking forward to working with the new government.

"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," the global lender said.

The clock is ticking, with a review due in late October 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 three-billion-euro tranche of aid.

In his second mandate, 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.

Debt-strapped Greece has been the first port of call for some 310,000 refugees from war and persecution in the Middle East and elsewhere this year, but almost all have moved on to seek a new life in more prosperous economies to the west.

Some 4,000 migrants riding flimsy vessels from Turkey arrive on the Greek islands every day, yet shelter for no more than an estimated 2,000 people is available in struggling Greece, with entire families left to sleep outside with little access to basic hygiene, food or transport.