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Samaras Ponders Stournaras Replacement

Greek Premier Antonis Samaras (L) with his Finance Minister, Yannis Stournaras
Greek Premier Antonis Samaras (L) with his Finance Minister, Yannis Stournaras

As Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras prepares for a Cabinet shakeup in the wake of a second-place finish for his New Democracy Conservatives in the European Parliament elections, at the top of the list is who will replace Yannis Stournaras and where will the Finance Minister wind up.
There have been on-again, off-again reports that Stournaras, who was the government’s point man in negotiations with envoys from the country’s international lenders, the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) would take over the job as Governor of the Bank of Greece.
Samaras is said to be thinking about a series of changes but who will get the top job as finance chief has been unsettled as has whether Stournaras, criticized as being dispassionate about the harsh austerity measures affecting the populace – one of the reasons New Democracy took a licking in the EU ballot – would replace Giorgos Provopoulos, who has been lobbying to keep the Bank of Greece position.
Citing sources it didn’t identify, the newspaper Kathimerini said Samaras and his coalition partner and Deputy Premier/Foreign Minister, PASOK Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos, were putting their heads together constantly over the Stournaras dilemma and would keep talking in private.
One of the hold-ups reportedly is that the two leader are unsure about replacing Stournaras with a key Samaras advisor, Stavros Papastavrou because the premier wants him close by when the government undertakes debt relief talks with the Troika later this year.
That could mean a political appointment for finance chief rather than someone more skilled in negotiating and less of a public name now that Stournaras has done all the hard work. Still, the government needs someone who can stand up to scrutiny and the pressure from major opposition leader Alexis Tsipras of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA).
Stournaras, a think tank technocrat, proved debt in deflecting Tsipras’ arguments when the two wrangled in Parliament, especially when the Leftist leader picked up his anti-austerity mantra and blamed the ruling parties for carrying on with measures that have created record unemployment and deep poverty.
It’s uncertain when the Cabinet changes will take place and it could be that they will be announced soon but not implemented until after June 30, the day Greece gives up the symbolic, essentially powerless rotating European Union Presidency during which it has done next to nothing but spent 50 million euros, about $68.05 million.
While it spent on ceremony for the EU Presidency, the government fired 595 cleaning ladies at the Finance Ministry to save 2.5 million euros ($3.4 million), as part of a plan to shed lower-paid workers including janitors, school nurses, crossing guards and teachers while exempting Parliament workers, managers, consultants and the politically-protected.
Samaras is expected to hold a meeting of his party’s executive committee on June 8 to review why it fared poorly in the EU elections, in which SYRIZA won the most Greek seats in a 21-member delegation going to Brussels.

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