Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Greece begins to unpack its Cyprus policy

Prime Minister Yiorgos Papandreou is seizing an initiative in an area where Kostas Karamanlis' government was allowing opportunity to escape – Cyprus.

Where New Democracy undertook no new initiatives in five and a half years in power, Pasok is beginning to create a new momentum. As Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas told parliament on October 16, “We are going to change the way in which Greek foreign policy is conducted. Our aim is for Greece once again to … be a bearer of initiatives; to seek solutions; to make proposals.” This sort of enterprise diplomacy had all but died.

Standing before the Cypriot parliament on October 20, Papandreou brought Greece back onto the offensive, defining Greece's role as reminding Turkey that it has an interest in a successful reunification of Cyprus.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Pasok's first week: A breath of fresh air

Prime Minister Yiorgos Papandreou's opening speech to his cabinet on October 7 was like the opening of a window in a stuffy hospital ward. He told his ministers to collaborate, following up on a pre-election promise to avoid feudal departments. He told them to pre-emptively account for their actions to parliament, the media, independent authorities and the justice system, following up on a promise of accountability. He told them that one of the first new rules being prepared by the interior minister will mandate the publication of their acts online, following up on a promise of transparency. And he told them to dismiss every committee convened under the auspices of their ministry and hire administrators on the basis of ability, to make good on a promise of meritocracy.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Greece's new cabinet

The ministers sworn in on October 7 are as follows:

Prime Minister and Foreign Minister: Yiorgos Papandreou

Vice-president of the government, with particular responsibility for the Government Council on Foreign Affairs and Defence and the Committee for Economic and Social Policy: Theodoros Pangalos

Minister of the Interior, Decentralisation and E-government: Yiannis Ragousis
Deputy Ministers: Dinos Rovlias (Athens), Theodora Tzakri (Thessaloniki)

Minister of Finance: Yiorgos Papakonstantinou
(Deputy Minister: Philippos Sahinidis)

Sunday, 4 October 2009

The challenge facing Greece's new prime minister

Socialist leader Yiorgos Papandreou will be Greece's next prime minister. His party, Pasok, won 43.92 percent of the vote and 160 seats in parliament, comfortably avoiding the need to form a coalition. He defeated his conservative rival, Kostas Karamanlis, by an astounding margin of just over ten percentage points. Looking devastated, Karamanlis conceded and resigned from the conservative party leadership.

The political challenge for Papandreou is threefold: to balance the budget and pay down the national debt; to make the economy more competitive and reverse the high trade imbalance; and to introduce greater transparency, accountability and meritocracy in public life. He has promised to do it all. Difficult though they are, the tasks cannot be separated because lack of progress in one area would undermine the others.