Greek finance minister resigns, crisis deepens

ATHENS Mon Jun 25, 2012 12:50pm EDT

Newly appointed Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras arrives for the first cabinet meeting of his government at the parliament in Athens June 21, 2012. REUTERS/Yorgos Karahalis

Newly appointed Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras arrives for the first cabinet meeting of his government at the parliament in Athens June 21, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Yorgos Karahalis

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ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's new finance minister resigned because of ill health on Monday, throwing the government's drive to soften the terms of an international bailout into confusion days before a European summit.

Vassilis Rapanos, 64, chairman of the National Bank of Greece, was rushed to hospital on Friday, before he could be sworn in, complaining of abdominal pain, nausea and dizziness. Greek media said he had a history of ill-health.

The office of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who himself only took office last Wednesday following a June 17 election, said Rapanos had sent a letter of resignation because of his health problems and it had been accepted.

Samaras himself has only just emerged from hospital after undergoing eye surgery to repair a damaged retina. Both he and Rapanos had already said they would not be able to attend the June 28-29 European summit.

It was a worryingly chaotic start for the new government, formed after the second election in a month, which faces a rocky road in responding to huge domestic opposition to a harsh international bailout in the face of steadfast European opposition to any watering down of its terms.

Only hours before Rapanos's resignation, a hospital bulletin said he would be discharged on Tuesday. He had undergone a gastroscopy and colonoscopy, an official at the Hygeia Hospital told Reuters on condition of anonymity. The tests "showed everything is completely normal", it said.

According to a source from one of the three parties in the new coalition government, Rapanos had been under heavy pressure from his family to turn down the stressful job because of his health problems.

Earlier on Monday the three party leaders had announced a trans-Atlantic roadshow to try to persuade skeptical lenders to give them more time to repay the country's massive debt.

TROIKA VISIT POSTPONED

The medical problems of Samaras and Rapanos had also forced a postponement of the first meeting between the new government and Greece's "troika" of international lenders, originally slated for Monday.

Samaras's government, an unlikely alliance of right and left that emerged from the June 17 election, has promised angry Greeks it will soften the punishing terms of a bailout saving them from bankruptcy in exchange for deep economic pain.

But euro zone paymaster Germany has strongly rejected major concessions.

Berlin signaled on Monday that Europe would wait for the troika's report on Greece before taking any decisions on how to make adjustments to the bailout package to compensate for weeks of political paralysis and a deeper than expected recession.

A new date for the troika visit has not been set.

Samaras, 61, emerged from hospital on Monday with a bandage over one eye. He was under orders not to fly or make the long road trip to Brussels, doctors said.

Speaking to Mega TV earlier, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou had said Rapanos had told Samaras on Friday, after being offered the job, that he had a "chronic situation" that he had learned to live with and that it would not effect his ability to do the demanding and stressful job.

Kedikoglou later said the government was not expected to name a replacement for Rapanos before Tuesday.

The government said Samaras and the leaders of his two coalition allies - the Socialist PASOK and smaller Democratic Left - would take their case for renegotiating the bailout conditions to Europe and the United States as soon as the prime minister was well enough.

($1 = 0.7977 euros)

(Additional reporting by Lefteris Papadimas, George Georgiopoulos and Tatiana Fragou; Writing by Barry Moody)

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Comments (10)
VonHell wrote:
…postponing the bailout terms with medical relief certificates… i see the greek gov is running out of options… not they had any reliable option but to stick with the austerity or get out…

But europe govs are asking Greece one thing Greece never had… political and finantial discipline… when they will finaly realise it is FOBAR…

Sometimes i think even germany is staging a play in the euro crisis… strong posture, while slowing conceding public money to the banks and finantial markets… clearly the majority of the people see Greece permanence as a fantasy and an obstacle now…
And Germany hold all cards in the hand… finish them off…
Greece, Spain, Italy, France have no option but bluff in this game…
If Merkel really wants “Europe more Europe”, she needs to play “less Europe” to force them together (since they have no choice, but are still bluffing with their egos)… Art of War…

Jun 24, 2012 11:03pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
mulholland wrote:
The only thing worse for Greeks than meeting the agreed terms would be leaving the Euro for Drachma, or refusing to abide by the agreement. The new Greek prime minister is not having eye surgery. He is puking in a toilet. Germany needs to set an example for France, and the PIIGS.Here is what will happen.

1. All banks fail at the same time.
2. All personal bank accounts evaporate instantly.
3. No government payrolls are paid.
4. No government assistance can be paid.
5. No business credit is available.
6. No private business payrolls are met.
7. Electric power, water, and gasoline are unavailable.
8. Greece reverts to barter.
9. France and the other PIIGS learn to enjoy austerity.

Jun 25, 2012 1:39am EDT  --  Report as abuse
GMavros wrote:
The EU, US & most societies based on capitalism are at the brink of an economic collapse, and the BRIC nations are on a similar road heading for more disasters. This apparent dead end situation in the EU is an indication of the deep underlying issue, Capitalism in its present form is no longer sustainable.
Crony politicians are no longer effective. Legitimate & capable world leaders do not exist anymore, everyone is addicted to personal gain, money & power.
Sovereign mega corporations, corrupt politicians & corrupt elite are now at the helm of our new ‘Titanic’ world order. The average world citizen has been reduced to a pathetic brain washed consumption hungry animal, so as to sustain capitalism.
The accelerating disparity between the wealthy & poor is irreversible with a guaranteed catastrophic finale.
History has been completely ignored. We Homo sapiens are proving to be the least intelligent species on this planet with a fat chance of survival.

Jun 25, 2012 2:31am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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