15 February, 2006
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis proceeded with a sweeping government reshuffle on Tuesday, February 14, nearly two years after his New Democracy party assumed the government's reins in a comfortable election victory.
A new and leaner government of 19 ministers and nine deputy ministers was announced by government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos, in which six deputy ministries were shed and six new faces replaced 10 outgoing members of the cabinet.
One of the most prominent but expected decisions was the appointment of outgoing Athens mayor Dora Bakoyanni as foreign minister in place of veteran high-ranking career diplomat Petros Molyviatis -- a long-time adviser to the prime minister and to his uncle and namesake, late Greek statesman and ND founder Constantine Karamanlis. The other change at the foreign ministry was the appointment of Theodoros Kassimis as one of three deputy ministers, replacing Panayiotis Skandalakis.
In a later press conference, Molyviatis announced his retirement from public service. He told reporters that he recently informed Karamanlis of his intention to retire after 50 years in the diplomatic arena, while thanking the premier for the trust he showed him.
One of the outgoing foreign minister's last acts while in office was to speak by phone with Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos earlier on Tuesday.
Less expected was the announcement that six deputy ministers' posts were eliminated at the employment, culture, tourism, agricultural development, public order and transport ministries.
In another high-profile change, ruling ND party secretary Vangelis Meimarakis was appointed new defense minister, in place of Spilios Spiliotopoulos.
Health Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis, meanwhile, one of the most popular figures in the government according to opinion polls, left the post to run for mayor of Athens in the fall municipal elections on an ND-backed ticket. Former Athens mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos will replace Kaklamanis, as he was shifted from the tourism development ministry.
Avramopoulos' position was filled by Fani Palli-Petralia, up until Tuesday the alternate culture minister.
In statements later on Tuesday, Avramopoulos expressed his satisfaction to be taking over the health ministry, saying that he would try to make the health ministry the "spearhead of the government's social policy".
Karamanlis, furthermore, sheds the culture ministry portfolio he kept for himself during a period that coincided with the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, with George Voulgarakis assuming the post after being shifted from the public order minister's chair.
Top ND official and former minister Vyron Polydoras fills Voulgarakis' position at the public order ministry.
Former agriculture minister Savvas Tsitouridis takes over from Panos Panayiotopoulos at the employment and social protection ministry.
The six deputy ministers' posts eliminated included those held by Petros Tatoulis (culture), Nikolaos Angelopoulos (employment), a vacant agriculture development deputy minister's portfolio, George Salagoudis (development), Anastasios Liaskos (tourism development), and Anastasios Nerantzis (transport and communication).
The latter, however, was re-appointed as a deputy development minister.
Additionally, newcomer George Kalantzis assumes the Macedonia-Thrace portfolio in place of Nikos Tsiartsionis.
The leaderships at the ministries of economy, interior and public administration, town planning-public works-environment, agriculture, development, justice and the Aegean ministry did not change.
Tuesday's political developments end months of mostly local press speculation over when and if Karamanlis would reshuffle his Cabinet.
Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos announced the reshuffle during his regular daily press briefing, where he added that veteran ND lawmaker Yiannis Kefaloyiannis was appointed as the prime minister's special adviser.
In other statements to reporters, Roussopoulos - who retained his minister of state portfolio - stressed that the new Cabinet's goal remains the "re-establishment of the state via major reforms", one of Karamanlis' and New Democracy party's catchphrases prior to the March 2004 elections and throughout the past two years in power.
Roussopoulos also mentioned an upgrading of state services towards citizens, economic recovery along with increasing competitiveness as other standing and strategic goals of the government.
Source: Athens News Agency