ATHENS(GreekNews).-Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis replaced four of the nineteen ministers in his cabinet Friday, while retaining key ministers including Foreign Minister George Papandreou and the heads of culture and public works ministries that are taking charge of the Athens Olympic Games next summer.
The new governmental structure was announced with no great surprises by Government Spokesperson Christos Protopapas. The same individuals will remain in the main political ministries, while new individuals were appointed as deputy ministers.
The four new ministers are Minister of Public Order George Floridis, Minister of Merchant Marine George Paschalidis, Minister of Macedonia-Thrace Haris Kastanidis and Minister of State Alexandros Akrivakis. The ministers will be sworn in Monday, said Protopapas.
The new line-up fell well short of expectations of a radical shakeup and cast doubt over the ruling socialists’ ability to reverse their dismal ratings and win a third term in elections due by next May.
In his introductory intervention, Protopapas stressed that the government was reshuffled so that it would be more efficient without wasting any time.
“After the EU presidency, the government must deal with pending problems swiftly with no adjustment period,” said Protopapas, while he made it known that the prime minister will refer to the procedures for a more effective promotion of the government’s work at the cabinet meeting on Monday.
The new undersecretaries are Nikos Bistis in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Kimon Koulouris in the Ministry of Development, Nikos Farmakis in the Ministry of Finance, Thodoros Kotsonis in the Ministry of Defense, Giorgos Thomas in the Ministry of Education and Vasilis Kontogiannopoulos in the Ministry of Health. Giorgos Floridis will take over the Ministry of Public Order replacing Michalis Chrisochoidis, who was elected PASOK’s Central Committee Secretary.
Speaking on Saturday before representatives of the production sector in the northern city of Veria in the prefecture of Imathia, the right-wing main opposition party leader Kostas Karamanlis launched strong criticism on the government and called for early elections. Referring to the government reshuffle, Karamanlis stated that the changes imposed by the prime minister concern “his party, their chairs and his succession” and accused Simitis of being forced to remain in the same structures, the same form and the same faces.
He also accused the government of bad governance, unaccountable spending and impunity, stressing that Simitis never dared to make the changes necessary for a modern, effective and true social state. Karamanlis stated that with today’s growth rates, a convergence will not be made possible even in half a century, and he reiterated the accusations for mismanagement and lack of social policy.
Protopapas responded to the statements, maintaining that Karamanlis will get the right answer from the Greek people in the spring of 2004 when parliamentary elections will be held in Greece. Protopapas stated that, with the statements he made, Karamanlis proved once again that he is unable to realize the model of modern governance the country needs.
The government spokesman stated that Karamanlis is unable to realize that the people, more than anything else, need clear goals and policy continuity, while they evaluate the results of the government work and not the individual politicians.
The materialization of the strategic goals for Greece by the year 2010 is the basic aim of the government, stated Minister of Development Akis Tsochatzopoulos from Thessaloniki, commenting on the recent political developments.
Tsochatzopoulos stated that hard work is needed by the governing Socialist Party of PASOK and the whole government to materialize the strategic goals for the country’s development by the year 2010.
PASOK’s newly elected Executive Bureau will meet on July 9. The meeting will be chaired by Simitis and will take place at the central party offices in Athens.
The reactions to the government reshuffle were varied. In PASOK, several Parliament deputies, who were not given a place in the new government, avoided making any comments, while most of them pointed out that everything will be judged based on the outcome.
However, many Parliament deputies of the governing party spoke of a conventional reshuffle that was incommensurate with the changes recorded within the party, in private talks they had with reporters.