Athens.- (GreekNewsOnline, ANA-MPE)
The members of the new government were sworn in by Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos before the President of Hellenic Republic Prokopios Pavlopoulos and in the presence of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the Presidential Mansion on Tuesday. The new cabinet will fold its first meeting today.
US President Donald Trump on Tuesday congratulated Greece’s prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, pledging in a telephone call to keep pursuing the countries’ warming relations, the White House said.
“The two leaders expressed their mutual interest in working together and continuing strong cooperation between the United States and Greece,” the White House said.
Vice President Mike Pence on Monday night called Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, to congratulate him on his electoral victory, it was reported on Tuesday. In a discussion that reportedly lasted more than 20 minutes, the two statesmen went over some essential issues, and committed to further deepen the already excellent relations between Greece and the US.
The U.S. State Department expressed its desire to work closely with the new Greek government on a series of crucial bilateral and regional issues during the second U.S.-Greece Strategic Dialogue, in a first statement on Monday after the general elections in Greece.
A State Department spokesperson congratulated the people of Greece and the new parliament, noting that Greece was one of “our closest allies and we look forward to continuing to work closely with the new government and newly elected Prime Minister Mitsotakis to increase regional stability, boost bilateral trade and diversify regional energy options.”
The U.S. will continue to deepen its cooperation with Greece on a wide range of issues that concern the two countries’ shared global agenda and looked forward to the next Strategic Dialogue in Athens, the spokesperson added.
THE NEW CABINET
The new cabinet is as follows:
Prime Minister: Kyriakos Mitsotakis
Vice-President: Panagiotis Pikrammenos
1. Ministry of Finance
Minister: Christos Staikouras
Deputy Minister on taxation policy and state assets: Apostolos Vesyropoulos
Deputy Minister on budgetary policy: Theodoros Skylakakis
Deputy Minister on financial system: Georgios Zavvos
2. Ministry of Development and Investments
Minister: Spyridon-Adonis Georgiadis
Deputy Minister on private investments and public-private partnerships: Giannis Tsakiris
Deputy Minister on reseach and technology: Christos Dimas
Deputy Minister on industry and trade: Nikos Papathanassis
3. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Minister: Nikos Dendias
Alternate minister on European affairs: Miltiadis Varvitsiotis
Deputy Minister on economic diplomacy and extroversion: Kostas Fragogiannis
Deputy Minister on expatriate Greeks: Antonis Diamataris
4. Ministry of Citizen Protection
Minister: Michalis Chrisochoidis
Alternate Minister on migration policy: Giorgos Koumoutsakos
Deputy Minister on anti-criminal policy: Lefteris Oikonomou
5. National Defence Ministry
Minister: Nikos Panagiotopoulos
Deputy minister: Alkiviadis Stefanis
6. Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs
Minister: Niki Kerameus
Deputy minister on primary and secondary education and special education: Sofia Zacharaki
Deputy minister on higher education: Vasilis Digalakis
7. Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare
Minister: Giannis Vroutsis
Deputy minister on social insurance: Panagiotis Mitarakis
Deputy minister on welfare and social solidarity: Domna Michailidou
8. Ministry of Health
Minister: Vasilis Kikilias
Deputy minister: Vasilis Kontozamanis
9. Ministry of Environment and Energy
Minister: Kostis Chatzidakis
Deputy minister on energy and natural resources: Gerasimos Thomas
Deputy minister on environmental and urban environment: Dimitris Oikonomou
10. Ministry of Culture and Sports
Minister: Lina Mendoni
Deputy minister on sports: Lefteris Avgenakis
11. Ministry of Justice
Minister: Kostas Tsiaras
Deputy minister: Dimitris Kranis
12. Ministry of Interior
Minister: Panagiotis Theodorikakos
Deputy minister on local government and elections: Theodoros Livanios
Deputy minister on Macedonia-Thrace: Theodoros Karaoglou
13. Ministry of Digital Governance
Minister of State and Digital Governance: Kyriakos Pierrakakis
Deputy minister on simplification processes: Georgios Georgantas
Deputy minister on digital strategy: Grigoris Zareifopoulos
14. Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport
Minister: Kostas Achillea Karamanlis
Deputy minister on trasport: Giannis Kefalogiannnis
15. Ministry of Shipping and Island Policy
Minister: Giannis Plakiotakis
16. Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food
Minister: Makis Voridis
Deputy minister on Common Agricultural Policy: Kostas Skrekas
Deputy minister on fishing policy: Fotini Arabatzi
17. Ministry of Tourism
Minister: Charis Theocharis
Deputy minister: Manos Konsolas
State Minister: Giorgos Gerapetritis
Deputy Director to the Prime Minister on coordination of government: Akis Skertsos
Deputy Director to the Prime Minister on communication, information and spokesperson: Stelios Petsas
In addition, Government Spokesman Stelios Petsas said that New Democracy will propose Ioannina MP Konstantinos Tasoulas for president of the Greek parliament.
New cabinet members assume their portfolios after handovers
The Cabinet members of newly sworn-in Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, leader of New Democracy (ND), assumed their portfolios on Tuesday at handovers by outgoing SYRIZA ministers. Former ministers reviewed their work, while incoming ones outlined their portfolio’s priorities. Their statements are as follows:
MINISTRY OF FINANCE
“Our main target is a high and sustainable growth rate with healthy public finances and a stable banking system,” stated newly appointed Finance Minister Christos Staikouras during the handover ceremony at the ministry on Tuesday.
A priority will be to ease the tax burden on households and enterprises, he said, while strengthening employment and social cohesion and supporting those unable to keep up with developments. He made a commitment to work “honestly and hard in the interests of the country and the people”.
“We will keep the positive things and build on them to correct mistakes and oversights and we will make use of the ministry’s staff with meritocracy,” he said. The minister said he would strive for the maximum possible consensus, underlining: “We will work with absolute cohesion, modesty, speed and effectiveness”.
MINISTRY OF DEVELOPMENT
Taking over the helm of the development ministry on Tuesday, Development and Investments Minister Adonis Georgiadis offered assurances of continuity in the state.
“We do not come to destroy but to build. To carry out the Greek people’s mandate,” he said at the handover ceremony.
The new minister said that the aim was a rapid reversal of the economic climate and ensuring the climate for an increase in GDP, in order to create new jobs and support social cohesion.
Georgiadis said that he did not look down on the work done by his predecessors, noting that many of their legislative initiatives “also had my consent,” and expressed the hope to find similar consent in the future from the main opposition.
He did not exclude the possibility of supporting some of the draft laws prepared by his predecessor Yiannis Dragasakis, which are on their way to parliament.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ government will seek the broadest possible consensus on foreign policy issues, guided by a desire for national unity, new Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said at the ministry’s handover ceremony on Tuesday.
Dendias underlined that foreign policy is not an appropriate area for contention between political parties.
On his part, outgoing Foreign Minister George Katrougalos praised his successor, noting that Dendias had directed harsh criticism at far-right Golden Dawn while speaking in parliament.
MINISTRY OF CITIZEN’S PROTECTION
“Security is the greatest good because without security democracy rots; we are here to work hard to instill a sense of security in the citizens,” newly-appointed Citizen Protection Minister Michalis Chrisochoidis said in his speech during the handover ceremony at the ministry on Tuesday.
Referring to the merger of the migration policy ministry and the citizen protection ministry, the new minister said: “Everywhere in Europe, the migration policy ministry belongs with the corresponding Interior Ministry, as well as anything related to the country’s home security”.
Praising his predecessor Evangelos Apostolakis, a retired admiral, new National Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said “it was an honor” to be handed over the ministry by him and spoke of himself as “another soldier for Greece.”
Panagiotopoulos said that the new leadership’s goal would be “to retain, and possibly increase and strengthen the deterrence potential” of the Greek armed forces, which he said was a long-term goal of all defense ministers.
His ministry will work towards this goal, he said. “Greece does not challenge others, and seeks relations of stability and peace in the Balkans and the wider Southeast Mediterranean,” he noted. “But it does not like to be challenged, and when it is done, Greece is obliged to respond with thoughtfulness, decisiveness and force, in order to avoid creating tension or appear vulnurable to challenges,” the minister added, also praising the armed forces’ spirit and devotion.
MINISTRY OF EDUCATION
Newly-appointed Education Minister Niki Kerameus noted that education is the “greatest investment that can be made in the country” since it determines both its present and future, in her speech at the handover ceremony at the education ministry on Tuesday.
She said that ND’s plan will introduce bold changes at all levels in education, adding that “we will seek to act quickly and effectively without taking anyone by surprise.”
The foremost priority of new Labor Minister Giannis Vroutsis is the immediate approval of outstanding pension applications, he said on Tuesday, at the handover with former minister Effie Achtsioglou.
Vroutsis also said that by June 1, 2020, 34 pct of all new pension applications will be approved electronically, doing away with current processing delays.
“The core of our social policy is to support the family in every possible way, while the Minimum Guaranteed Income will again be the basic tool for effective social intervention,” said the Labor Minister.
He noted that “the Minimum Guaranteed Income will expand and we will we strengthen it to embrace the weak and vulnerable groups of the population, providing not only financial support but also guaranteed opportunities for reintegration into society and work.”
Vroutsis stressed that the new Labor Ministry leadership will not void the actions of the previous political leadership, and underlined that “on the contrary, we will correct some mistakes, rationalize or abolish some (policies) that have to be abolished, but will support anything that needs empowerment. Continuity of the state is a key priority of our policy.”
MINISTRY OF HEALTH
Orthopedician Vasilis Kikilias, the new Health Minister, received the ministerial portfolio at the Tuesday handover from former minister and microbiologist Andreas Xanthos, in the absence of controversial former Alternate Health Minister Pavlos Polakis.
In his greeting, Kikilias said that together with his deputy minister, Vasilis Kontozamanis, they will visit the health infrastructure across the country, record the problems “and we will recognize the younger heroes – doctors, nurses and staff alike.” He said that public opinion has a bad impression of the health system, and explained that “our own policy will put patients first.”
As the new Minister of Health said, “We will be judged upon whether there are consecutive running shifts at the local hospital’s medical imaging room, whether we have sufficient medical supplies at hospitals, whether there is less trouble for people,” and noted that “changes will start from smaller, everyday things.”
On his part, Xanthos said that “in the midst of the crisis, we managed to keep the health system standing tall, functional, and accessible to all citizens.”
The former health minister also mentioned that key objectives such as “a credible primary health care system focusing on the family doctor and with an emphasis on dealing with emergency treatments at hospitals” should not be overlooked, he concluded.
MINISTRY OF ENERGY
Newly appointed Energy Minister Kostis Chatzidakis put forth the government’s priorities in energy and the environment during the ministerial handover ceremony with outgoing Energy Minister Giorgos Stathakis.
Chatzidakis said the top priority is a plan to help the Public Power Corporation, which he said is problematic despite efforts by managers and workers. Other priorities include completing the power grid connectivity across many Greek islands, completing all international natural gas projects, and the speeding up of hydrocarbon research and development.
The new Energy minister stressed that emphasis will also be given to renewable energy sources and better household waste management, while completing the Greek Cadaster’s land registration and introducing a more efficient management for forests are also a significant priorities.
MINISTRY OF CULTURE
The Culture Ministry has “an assignment by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to contribute to reviving the center of Athens through the revamping of the National Archaeological Museum,” incoming Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said on Tuesday during the handover events.
Mendoni, who has served as the Ministry’s Secretary General for a decade, said the ministry would also work on completing the National Gallery of Art renovaction project and on relating the role of culture to several aspects of life, including climate change, social integration, eduction, viable development and investments.
“Whatever is good will be continued. The state has continuity without fixed ideations,” she said, later adding that “culture has a deeply political meaning.”
The ministry’s outgoing leadership spoke of improving efficiency and the legislative framework that used to weigh down the ministry and leave major monuments unprotected, protecting copyright, and introducing the e-ticket for archaeological sites and museums.
MINISTRY OF JUSTICE
Justice should not be used as an arena for political clashes, new Justice Minister Konstantinos Tsiaras said during the ministry handover on Tuesday from outgoing minister Michalis Kalogirou.
Tsiaras said justice is a pillar of democracy and he stressed the importance of its independence.
Kalogirou mentioned that he leaves a greater budget by 40 million euros, 1,000 new positions of trial personnel and reforms to improve the meting of justice.
MINISTRY OF INTERIOR
A new election law that scraps simple proportional representation and allows Greeks abroad to vote in national elections, as well as measures that make municipalities more governable, will be among the first measures taken by the ministry, new Interior Minister Takis Theodorikakos announced in his speech during the ministry handover ceremony on Tuesday.
He said that there will be no layoffs in the public sector, adding that the aim of the new government is to serve Greek citizens and for the state to become associated in their minds with “an absolutely successful affair that serves Greek society”.
MINISTRY OF DIGITAL POLICY
“We are going full-on digital,” said the new Minister of Digital Policy, Kyriakos Pierrakakis, speaking at the Tuesday ministerial handover with formet minister Nikos Pappas and declaring “a war on bureaucracy.”
Pierrakakis stressed that “the digital transformation of the state is a basic priority of both the new government and the new prime minister personally,” and noted this is reflected in “creating the new ministry, which will be called Ministry of Digital Governance.”
Beyond the renaming, the minister said that there will be three general secretariats: those of Digital Strategy, to simplify bureaucratic procedures; Information Systems (IT), to be moved over from the Finance Ministry’s jurisdiction; and that of Telecommunications and Hellenic Post Offices, to bring together dispersed services from across public administration.
Former Minister of Digital Policy, Telecommunications & Media Nikos Pappas said his ministerial term paved the way for some important projects that should be seen through by the new leadership, and mentioned the Syzefxis II, or National Public Administration Network, which aims to interconnect 34,000 public administration entities and schools into a digital unified hyper-network.
Pappas reminded the project’s 630 million euros budget, the electronic circulation of documents between 21,000 public services and the digitization of 150,000 signatures of public officers.
Finally, present at this ministerial handover was the new government spokesman, Stelios Petsas, who said that the main subject in his field is information.
He stressed that “we have the tools in our hands, state broadcaster ERT, Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA), a very knowledgeable staff here at the (Digital Policy Ministry’s) General Secretariat of Information, and a willingness by all to convey truly genuine information for the good of all Greeks. We have the Prime Minister’s confidence in that,” concluded Petsas.
In addition, Former Digital Policy Deputy Minister Lefteris Kretsos called on the new administration to continue the policy of encouraging foreign companies to film in Greece. “Do not just continue this policy,” Kretsos said, “improve on it as well,” as Greece offers competitive and taxation incentives.
MINISTRY OF TRANSPORTATION
New Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis on Tuesday said that large-scale public works “should not exceed deadlines of 5, 10 and 15 years,” speaking at the handover with former minister Christos Spirtzis.
Karamanlis noted that “things done the right way will be continued, while what we don’t agreee with, we will change.” He also noted that public projects “need to be accompanied by feasibility and viability reports.”
Spirtzis thanked Karamanlis, and expressed his appreciation of handing over the ministry to a New Democracy politician who, as he said, kept up a decent and civil stance during his tenure in the main opposition.
MINISTRY OF SHIPPING
“Our priority is to form a taxation and legislation framework that is more friendly to shipping firms, in order to attract new investments and facilitate the establishment of foreign shipping companies in Greece,” newly-appointed Shipping Minister Yiannis Plakiotakis said during the handover ceremony at the shipping ministry on Tuesday.
He also announced the launch of initiatives to attract more ships to the Greek flag and referred to a renewal of the coastal fleet with the building of ships in Greece.
Plakiotakis said that New Democracy’s (ND) priority is to upgrade the infrastructure and services at the country’s ports so as to attract more cruiseships and upgrade sea tourism.
MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE
Negotiating in support of Greek farmers’ interests over the EUs new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is the priority of the Agricultural Development & Food Ministry, newly appointed Minister Makis Voridis said on Tuesday during the handover of the ministry portfolio.
The new leadership raised the issue of climate change as the most outstanding problem expected to plague farmers in the future. New Deputy Minister responsible for CAP Kostas Skrekas noted that starting in 2050, 60 pct of all irrigated lands will have dried out.
Outgoing Deputy Minister Vassilis Kokkalis urged the new administration to continue supporting new farmers, and advised its members to “listen to the simple farmer.”
MINISTRY OF TOURISM
Greece must return to a 4 pct annual growth, and tourism has a significant role to play in this development, new Tourism Minister Charis Theocharis said on Tuesday, during the handover from outgoing minister Thanassis Theocharopoulos.
Tourism is a national issue, he said, revealing that the new leadership will focus on strengthening and safeguarding the tourism product. The ministry will have great challenges to meet and at the same time great growth opportunities, he added.
Theocharopoulos meanwhile noted that “tourism demands unity and collaboration,” and urged the new minister to build on the achievements of his predecessors.
Tourism and travel in Greece developed at a 6.9 pct rate in 2018, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), 3.5 times higher than the growth of the entire national economy (2.0 pct).
The sector represents 20.6 pct of Greece’s GDP (against a global average of 10.4 pct). In real terms, this means that one in five euros spent in Greece during 2018 came from the tourism and travel sector and correspond to expenditures of 37.5 billion euros (or USD 44.6 bln). In addition, one quarter of all jobs in Greece are in tourism, a total of 988,600 jobs, WTTC said. This employment figure is expected to grow in 2019 to over 1 million. Greece attracted another 9 million tourists in 2018, bringing the total number of visitors to 33 million, including cruise ship travellers.