ATHENS Greece's government named economist Gikas Hardouvelis as finance minister on Monday, replacing Yannis Stournaras, who has steered Greece towards economic recovery after it nearly crashed out of the euro zone in 2012.
Hardouvelis, a professor of finance and banking at Piraeus University and chief economist at Eurobank, previously advised Lucas Papademos when he was prime minister.
Hardouvelis was appointed as part of a wide reshuffle aimed at showing Greeks that the conservative-led coalition government was heeding their call for change after the radical leftist Syriza won last month's EU election.
Hardouvelis takes over at a time when Greece has put the worst of its debt crisis behind it, but still faces a jobless rate of over 26 percent and negotiations to seek debt relief from EU lenders later this year.
Hardouvelis, with a PhD in economics from Berkeley University, was also chief economic adviser to Socialist prime minister Costas Simitis during 2000-04.
Stournaras - a widely respected economist who is expected to replace Bank of Greece Governor George Provopoulos when his term expires on June 21 - has been credited with spearheading Greece's return to fiscal rigor from near bankruptcy.
After a six-year slump, the country's worst peacetime economic crisis, Greece is expected to return to marginal growth this year. Athens returned to bond markets in April after a four-year exile with a successful bond sale.
Under Stournaras, Athens also posted a primary budget surplus in 2013, making it eligible for further debt relief by the EU and IMF, with talks expected to begin in the autumn - a next major focus for the new finance minister.
Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos, head of the co-ruling socialist Pasok party, kept his foreign ministry portfolio.
Other changes in the reshuffle include former socialist but now independent lawmaker Andreas Loverdos, who was appointed education minister.
(Reporting by George Georgiopoulos and Renee Maltezou)