Down to business as Greek government sworn in

Greece’s new socialist government has been sworn-in in a solemn ceremony in Athens.

euronews channel-Prime Minister George Papandreou’s appointments to key cabinet posts have struck the right note with analysts.

His pared-down administration has been welcomed as the right blend of expertise and experience to tackle the challenges facing the country.

The list includes senior members of his PASOK party and fresh names with international experience. He has also overhauled the structure of the cabinet, splitting the finance and economy jobs but joining the environment and energy portfolios into one.

Observers say it is a clear signal that fighting the economic crisis is the government’s top priority, something Papandreou highlighted on the campaign trail.

The economy ministry has gone to one of his long-time advisors Louka Katseli, while George Papaconstantinou, a younger generation
economist, has been given the finance portfolio.
Both are seen by markets as capable hands.

One of their first challenges will be to convince Brussels to give Greece more time to bring its budget deficit in line with EU rules.

Papendreou’s government takes shape

euronews channel-Greece’s new Prime Minister Georges Papandreou has wasted no time naming his economy and finance ministers, as he faces a ballooning deficit and soaring youth unemployment. Papendreou’s socialist Pasok party won last Sunday’s election with a comfortable majority in parliament, ousting conservative prime minister Costas Karamanlis.

57-year old Louka Katseli comes in as economy minister.She served as economic adviser to Papandreou’s father, Andreas, when he was prime minister in the 1990s. The post of finance minister has been given to 49-year old Georges Papaconstantinou, a close adviser to the new prime minister. He has played a leading role in the new face of Pasok.

One of the first challenges for the government is to draft next year’s budget by November. Greece’s deficit is estimated to be running at more than six percent. This is double the Euro zone’s limit of three percent. By splitting the ministry of national economy and finance in two, Papandreou has signalled that his government’s top priority is fighting the crisis.

Opposition socialists win snap election

Conservative Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has called opposition leader George Papandreou to concede defeat in Sunday’s elections after early results showed a 7.2-point lead in favour of the socialist Pasok party.

AFP – Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis conceded defeat in Sunday’s general elections after early results showed his New Democracy party trailing the socialists by more than seven percent, the party said.

“Mr Karamanlis communicated with Pasok leader George Papandreou by telephone, congratulated him for his party’s victory and wished him every success,” the New Democracy press office said.

With one in three polling stations accounted for, Papandreou’s Pasok party has won 43.53 percent of the vote against 35.62 percent for the ruling New Democracy conservatives, interior ministry figures showed.

The ministry’s official analysts earlier calculated that the socialists could win as many as 162 seats in the 300-member parliament.

The snap election was called two years ahead of schedule by Karamanlis, whose administration was mired in scandal and hamstrung by a one-seat majority in parliament for months.

Karamanlis said a government with a fresh mandate was needed to deal with the effects of the economic crisis with the Greek economy barely hovering above recession.

The victory makes Pasok’s leader the third Papandreou to govern Greece since World War II, after his father Andreas — who founded the party — and his grandfather and namesake George Papandreou, Greece’s first prime minister after the country’s liberation from German occupation in 1944.

Socialists ahead in Greek campaign

The latest opinion polls in Greece show Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis may regret his decision to call an early election. Facing some grim figures, he admitted some mistakes, but said his conservative New Democracy government had taken important steps to fight the recession and lower Greece’s ballooning public deficit. He lambasted the Socialists for not supporting his policies.

Not that that will worry Socialist leader George Papandreou. The polls say his PASOK party is widening its lead in the run-up to next month’s election, where the economy is the number one issue. Greece has been under pressure from Brussels to tackle its public debt, and has cut taxes and privatised companies to boost investment. But the polls say voters worry more about lost jobs and feel little has been done to help the poor.

New Democracy was narrowly re-elected two years ago but has seen the recession, public scandals and devastating wildfires eat away at its support. However, the polls also say the Socialists may not win an outright majority, meaning a coalition government or yet more elections.

Greek PM calls snap election

The Greek prime minister has called a surprise early election.

In a televised address to the nation, Costas Karamanlis said the country needed to clear the political landscape in order to take measures to deal with its economic downturn.

Karamanlis’s four-year term would normally end in 2011.

He is expected to seek parliament’s dissolution tomorrow. A government source was quoted as saying the poll would be on October 4, but that has not been confirmed. .

Greece is struggling to cope with the global financial crisis that is threatening to push its economy into recession this year while high unemployment and its national debt, the euro zone’s second biggest, is ballooning.

The scandal-plagued conservative New Democracy government trails the main opposition socialist PASOKparty, led Georgios Papandreou, by about 6 points in opinion polls.

NATO chief calls for closer Greek/Turkish ties

NATO chief, Denmark’s Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has held talks with Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

Rasmussen called on Greece to improve its relations with Turkey in order to smooth NATO missions in which both countries serve, particularly in Afghanistan.

Both men believe something must be done to tighten up NATO/EU missions on the ground.

“ We have not been able to conclude a security agreement between NATO and the EU. At the end of the day the lack of a security agreement might put our personnel on the ground at risk,” Rasmussen said.

The EU, along with Canada and New Zealand, contributes to a police force of 157 officers whose main role is training local Afghan security forces. The EU also provides billions of euros in aid for reconstruction.

From Greece Rasmussen travels to Turkey, which fought hard to keep him out of the NATO hot seat following the perceived Danish cartoon insult to Islam.