20th Sep 2019

Ex-ECB man to be new Greek PM

  • The former ECB official is now set to lead the government (Photo: Maciej Janiec)

Former vice-president of the European Central Bank, Lucas Papademos is set to be named the new, technocrat prime minister of Greece, a changeover demanded by the EU and IMF.

A senior Greek source confirmed to EUobserver that the name has all but been agreed, although Papademos is demanding a longer term in office than the current administration of George Papandreou favours and much longer than the six-week caretaker government that the opposition conservatives have demanded.

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“He wants more than four to five months,” the contact said, in reference to the term limit demanded by Papandreou.

“The other problem is that there are still people in New Democracy that want to stay out of a coalition government,” the official continued. “They don’t want to see their image damaged by agreeing to the spending cuts and so on.”

But the official, close to the discussions, expected Papademos to be installed by the end of the evening.

Other names in the frame have included EU ombudsman Nikiforos Diamantouros and former European commissioner Stavros Dimas, a New Democracy man but a political moderate who made his name in Brussels as an environment chief willing to take on the corporate sector and potentially more amenable to the centre-left Pasok.

The new government had been demanded by the core EU leaders, the ECB and the IMF in return for access to the latest, €8 billion tranche of bail-out cash. Although the dispersal of the funds had been signed off by eurozone premiers and presidents on the 23 October, an abrupt announcement of putting a new €130 billion bail-out deal to a referendum by Prime Minister Papandreou that angered the rest of the bloc’s leaders resulted in a fresh demand for a unity government.

On Monday night, EU economy commissioner Olli Rehn told reporters after a meeting of eurozone finance ministers: “This unilateral announcement of a referendum was a breach of confidence.”

“We therefore reiterated our long-standing call for a national unity government in line with what we have seen in Ireland and Portugal where this has worked, and where this has been crucial and essential to have the sufficient political backing and confidence in support of very difficult EU-IMF programmes of reform and fiscal adjustment,” he told reporters.

In the two countries at election time, Brussels said that the main Irish and Portuguese political parties could have differing policies on all other areas but the economy.

EU officials have said that this is necessary so that if the government changes, the policies remain the same.

“It is essential that entire political class is now restoring the confidence that had been lost,” he said.

The new Greek authorities must now send a letter co-signed by the leaders of the centre-left Pasok and the right-wing New Democracy party “reaffirming their strong commitment” to implement what was agreed by EU leaders at a summit from 26-27 October, eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker said at the same press conference.

He explained that a new Greek government was needed as a result of the domestic political demands in core eurozone countries: “It is awfully difficult to explain to German, Austrian, Dutch, Belgian and Luxembourger citizens to show solidarity [with Greece] ... if inside Greece there is no willingness to come to common analysis and to national consensus.”

He said the move took a lot of teaching the country’s leaders what needed to be done. “I’m very glad that after months of explanations and pedagogical efforts, the Greek political class has made the decision to work together. it should have been done months ago.”

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Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou narrowly won a vote of confidence in the country’s parliament early Saturday morning. Paradoxically, the leader at the same time appears ready to step down and make way for a transitional, unity administration.

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An agreement on a Greek national unity government to be headed by the parliament’s speaker fell apart apart at the eleventh hour, deepening the country’s political turmoil just weeks before the country is expected to run out of cash.

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