Greek Finance Minister Quits Days Into the Job on Illness
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras consented to the resignation of his finance minister, Vassilios Rapanos, four days after naming him to the post.
Rapanos, a former National Bank of Greece (TELL) SA chairman, sent his letter of resignation while still hospitalized after collapsing on June 22. The resignation was accepted by Samaras, according to a phone-text message from the premier’s office in Athens today.
“The state of my health isn’t at the state that would allow me to fully and adequately exercise my duties,” Rapanos said in the letter, which was provided by the premier’s office. “I regret that I will not be able to accept in the end your honorable proposal.”
Finance Minister-designate Rapanos was hospitalized for nausea and dizziness, days after Samaras’s New Democracy forged an agreement on a government with third-placed socialist Pasok and the Democratic Left party following June 17 elections. The resignation of Rapanos, who was never sworn in, leaves Samaras and his coalition partners without a finance chief just as the government prepares to press for more concessions with international creditors.
Samaras himself is recuperating from eye surgery in Athens, and will miss his first summit of European Union leaders as premier later this week. President Karolos Papoulias was named to represent Greece.
Missing the summit may set back Samaras’s bid to ease the budget cuts demanded in exchange for emergency loans. EU leaders were due to grill him on his coalition’s plan to renegotiate the terms of a 130 billion-euro ($163 billion) rescue package. While Papoulias, a former foreign minister, will lead the delegation, Samaras will have advance phone talks with EU counterparts, according to a statement from his office. He spoke with U.S. President Barack Obama today.
Samaras and Rapanos’s twin illnesses have meant a visit by the international creditors to determine how far Greece has slipped behind on the budget targets that underpin access to the international funds was also suspended. The results of that visit are expected to be instrumental for Greek plans to push creditors to extend fiscal deadlines under the country’s bailout program by at least two years.
Coalition partner Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis said he, Samaras and socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos will travel to Brussels when Samaras, 61, recovers.
“We have agreed that after the premier’s convalescence we will all go to Brussels, to all Europe, to negotiate and primarily argue for those issues which we have agreed in the policy statement,” Kouvelis said after a meeting with Venizelos in Athens today in which Samaras participated by phone.
The government affirmed its commitment to the need to reduce deficits, control debt and implement the structural reforms the country needs, according to a policy document drawn up by the three parties and released on June 23. It set out a series of measures that should be changed to alleviate the country’s economic downturn, now in its fifth year.
Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos will also attend the EU summit, accompanied by caretaker Finance Minister Giorgios Zanias, Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras and Development Minister Kostis Hatzidakis. Zanias is a possible candidate to take on the finance post for the coalition government, Athens-based newspaper Imerisia said today on its website, without citing anyone.
The visit by the so-called troika, comprised of officials from the EU, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, was due to have begun today. A vote of confidence in the government needs to be requested within 15 days of the swearing in of the prime minister on June 20.
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