ATHENS?Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras reshuffled his cabinet late Friday to speed up talks with Greece's creditors and revive the morale of his ruling left-wing Syriza party after heavy setbacks.
The new cabinet sidelines some opponents of economic overhauls required under Greece's bailout plan, signaling that Mr. Tsipras wants to conclude the current round of talks with creditors about economic policies swiftly. That could open up the way to negotiations about debt relief, as well as to Greece's inclusion in the European Central Bank's bond-buying program.
The refreshed team is also an attempt to revive Syriza's flagging popularity with the help of new faces while also rewarding some of the Greek premier's closest aides with promotions and expanded powers.
Syriza currently trails the conservative opposition party New Democracy in opinion polls. Although elections aren't required until 2019, few recent Greek governments have lasted a full term, thanks to the pressures of managing the country's debt crisis and economic depression.
Casualties of the reshuffle include previously influential energy minister Panos Skourletis, who resisted the partial privatization of PPC, Greece's main national power-generation company. His replacement is former Economy Minister George Stathakis. Greece has to raise some ?6 billion euros from privatizations by 2018 under the bailout plan signed last year.
Mr. Stathakis has been replaced by Professor of Economics at Bards College Dimitri Papadimitriou. Mr. Skourletis was moved to the Interior Ministry.
Key ministers with whom Greece's main creditors?the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund?have worked well remain in place, including Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos and his deputy George Chouliarakis.
Mr. Tsipras's most powerful aide, Minister of State Nikos Pappas, has taken over the Ministry of Digital Policy, a new ministry that has been formed. This means that he keeps his role as the person in charge of the media and keeps his office at the prime minister's mansion.
Mr. Pappas, widely seen as the second-most powerful person in the government, has faced heavy criticism from Greek media for his role in trying to shake up the Greek television sector.
Mr. Pappas's auctioning of only four licenses for private broadcasters was struck down in late October by Greece's constitutional court. The legal defeat undermined Syriza's self-styled effort to bring to heel Greece's oligarchs, who control much of the country's media as well as shipping, public works and other sectors.
With his reshuffle, Mr. Tsipras showed Syriza supporters he is sticking with Mr. Pappas, and with the ambition to shake up Greece's economic establishment.
Christos Spirtzis, who led opposition to his government's own privatization program, keeps his position as infrastructure minister, but he will no longer be in charge of the transportation sector. Public transport companies are due to be transferred to Greece's new privatization fund later this year.
Labor Minister George Katrougalos was replaced by his top adviser lawyer Efi Achtsioglou, a change that appears aimed at smoothing an agreement with the eurozone and IMF about labor-market reforms. As part of the current round of policy talks, creditors want further market-oriented overhauls of Greek labor laws, a demand that is expected to remain hard for Syriza to swallow.
Write to Nektaria Stamouli at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 04, 2016 18:05 ET (22:05 GMT)
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