Greek prime minister reshuffles his cabinet to boost bailout reforms

Greek prime minister reshuffles cabinet to boost bailout reforms

Alexis Tsipras says time has come to speed up measures agreed with the country’s international creditors

HELENA SMITH

The Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, has reshuffled his government to boost bailout reforms in the hope of getting the EU to agree to critical debt relief by the end of the year.

Heralding a new political era for his country, the embattled leader said on Sunday the time had come to expedite measures demanded by international creditors and “turn the page”. Hardline ministers who had criticised policies including privatisations were dumped for moderate technocrats in what was interpreted as a further shift to the centre by the man who once personified the hope of Europe’s radical left.

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Tsipras and ministers attend a cabinet meeting at the Greek parliament in Athens. Photograph: Yannis Kolesidis/EPA

“We are very near the end of a long period of very difficult decisions,” he told his newly assembled cabinet. Tsipras said reform negotiations had to be concluded by 5 December so that eurozone finance ministers, holding their last meeting this year, could begin debating how best to cut the country’s debt.

At over €320bn (£285bn), Greece’s debt pile is regarded as its biggest impediment to economic recovery.

In a move aimed at placating the lenders who have bailed out Greece three times since its economic near-collapse six years ago, the respected US-based economics professor Dimitri Papadimitriou was appointed economy minister. The 70-year-old head of the Levy Economics Institute, a thinktank, will have oversight of investment policies and EU structural funds.

Signalling he would push ahead with the often unpopular policies demanded by Greece’s lenders – the European Union and the International Monetary Fund – Tsipras also retained the finance minister, Euclid Tsakalotos. The Oxford-educated economics professor has won plaudits for his low-key efficacy, in sharp contrast to his forerunner, Yanis Varoufakis.

Stergios Pitsiorlas, a veteran leftist who helped found the ruling Syriza party, was elevated to the position of deputy economy minister. In his previous role as chairman of Greece’s privatisation agency, Pitsiorlas had been praised for his no-nonsense approach to disposing of cash-draining state assets. The shipping minister, Theodoros Dritsas, who was against further investment in Piraeus port by the Chinese conglomerate Cosco was among those dropped, while Panos Skourletis, the energy and environment minister, who had vehemently opposed the partial privatisation of the Public Power Corporation, was moved to the interior ministry.

Skourletis, an established Syriza figure, was described by insiders as too powerful to be removed altogether. He was replaced by George Stathakis who had held the economy ministry portfolio.

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About the author

Helena Smith is the Guardian’s correspondent in Greece, Turkey and Cyprus

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