The new left-wing government of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras took office yesterday, 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 refugee 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,” Greek Deputy Prime Minister Yiannis Dragasakis told reporters before the ceremony.
“We have the prerequisites to overcome the difficulties,” he said.
Tsipras later yesterday flew to Brussels for an emergency summit on the refugee 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 last month 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 yesterday said 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 defense 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.
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 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 to reporters, 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 late next month by the lenders on whether Athens is abiding by the reform program.
At stake for the new government will be the release of a new 3 billion euro (US$3.34 billion) tranche of aid.
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