ATHENS – Just a few days after he warned the squabbling ministers in his shaky hybrid government to start working and stop campaigning as elections loom, interim Prime Minister Lucas Papademos has ordered them to stop trying to undercut reform measures by adding scores of amendments to bills without telling him. He said he was alarmed that the government’s work is being undermined by the people who are campaigning to head Greece after the elections, set for either April 29 or May 6.
Papademos is overseeing a coalition of holdover PASOK Socialists and their bitter rival New Democracy Conservatives whose parties are sinking in the polls because Greeks are angry they supported austerity measures to get international rescue loans. Papademos forced one minister to withdraw an amendment to legislation and asked all members of his Cabinet to clear any proposed changes with him first as they had gone around him during his last days in office.
Sources told the newspaper Kathimerin that Papademos intervened to prevent an amendment to a draft law on the liberalization of the road haulage sector that would have left greater restrictions in place for those owning licenses to drive tankers, compared to other trucks. Greece has been trying to open up its road haulage sector since 2010 but has often come up against strong resistance from truck owners. The Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) which is loaning Greece $152 billion in a first bailout and a pending second package of $172 billion, has long complained that Greece was dragging its feet on opening closed professions.
Transport Minister Makis Voridis, who jumped to New Democracy from the far Right-Wing LAOS party that was in the coalition before it left, denied the amendment was intended to favor some owners over others. He said it only related to those holding old permits and did not place any restrictions on new licenses. “The aim of the amendment was to encourage the issuing of new licenses,” insisted Voridis, who accepted that objections from PASOK meant that he would have withdrawn the amendment.
Alternate Defense Minister Yiannis Ragousis, who held Voridis’s position in the past, accused New Democracy of trying to curry favor with voters and party supporters ahead of the parliamentary elections. PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos held an informal meeting with party officials and told them that no Socialist cabinet members would submit any amendments that were not required by the terms of Greece’s new bailout or did not have the Cabinet’s approval. Sources told Kathimerini that Papademos and his advisers were stupefied by the efforts of members of both PASOK and New Democracy to slip last-minute amendments through Parliament. This led to Papademos informing his ministers in writing that they would need to clear any such changes with his office. This task has been assigned to State Minister Giorgos Stavropoulos. As of April 3, Stavropoulos had 86 amendments to examine.