* Yannis Stournaras to be Greece's new central bank chief
* Stournaras advocates tighter economic integration of euro
(Adds detail, comments)
By George Georgiopoulos and Harry Papachristou
ATHENS, June 11 Former Greek finance minister
Yannis Stournaras, who spearheaded Greece's return to economic
stability after it nearly crashed out of the euro zone, is to
become the next Bank of Greece governor, the central bank said
Stournaras, 57, will take over from George Provopoulos when
the latter's term ends on June 19, days after being replaced as
finance minister as part of a wide cabinet reshuffle by Prime
Minister Antonis Samaras.
His appointment means he will be a member of the European
Central Bank's Governing Council.
Stournaras is an economist, a former CEO of a commercial
bank, headed Greece's influential think-tank IOBE, and was a
government economic adviser when Greece strove to join the euro
zone. He has been credited with dragging the country back from
the brink of bankruptcy when he was appointed finance minister
Since then, Greece has steadied its finances and is now
expected to return to marginal growth this year after a six-year
economic slump - the country's worst peacetime economic crisis.
Under Stournaras, Athens returned to bond markets in April
after a four-year exile with a successful sale of 3 billion
euros of bonds and posted a primary budget surplus in 2013,
making it eligible for further debt relief by the EU and IMF.
Still, Stournaras has been a magnet for criticism by
anti-bailout groups who have attacked him for implementing the
harsh spending cuts demanded under Greece's 237-billion-euro
European Union/International Monetary Fund bailout.
VILIFIED BY OPPOSITION
Greece's main opposition, leftist Syriza party said earlier
on Wednesday it was against Stournaras's appointment because he
was a proponent of the austerity policies it rejects.
"Mr. Stournaras will continue to defend the bailout policies
from his new post," Syriza spokesman Panos Skourletis was quoted
as saying by Greek news website skai.gr.
Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras - emboldened by the party's
victory in EU elections in Greece last month - had warned
Samaras not to appoint a new governor without consulting him.
Tsipras met ECB President Mario Draghi on Tuesday in
Frankfurt, pushing for a sizable cut on the nominal value of
Stournaras, Greece's government and European policymakers
all reject that option, preferring instead to make the debt more
easily manageable by extending maturities and reducing interest.
As finance minister, Stournaras has been a keen advocate of
tighter economic integration in the euro zone, by coordinating
member states' financial policies and devising financing tools
to spur growth in cash-strapped southern European countries.
Countries with "excessive" budget or current account
surpluses should "adopt economic policies contributing to the
rebalancing of the European economy", he said in a March speech.
Stournaras replaces Provopoulos, a 63-year old economist and
former bank CEO, who oversaw the recapitalisation of Greece's
banking system under the terms of the country's international
bailout. Provopoulos had publicly said he wanted a second term.
"I spent many sleepless nights not knowing in what currency
I would wake up to," Provopoulos told reporters on Wednesday
after a speech to cental bank staff where he got a standing
(Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)