World News

Greek PM keeps key ministers, seeks fresher image in cabinet makeover

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis reshuffled his cabinet on Monday in an attempt to give a boost to his conservative government, but left key ministers in place to signal policy continuity for the economy and foreign affairs.

FILE PHOTO: Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, Belgium, December 10, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman/Pool/File Photo

As Greece aims to reopen schools next week and start mass vaccinations this month, the government is keen to kick-start the economy after the novel coronavirus pandemic destroyed hopes of a recovery last year.

To face the challenges, Mitsotakis has switched some ministers around and brought in a few new faces, including Christos Tarantilis, an Athens University professor who was appointed the government’s spokesman to help polish its image.

In addition, the prime minister appointed what officials said was Greece’s first openly gay minister, naming Nicholas Yatromanolakis, a former member of the centrist Potami party, as deputy culture minister in a move that underlined his socially liberal governing style.

“Every government needs to demonstrate flexibility at the right time,” Tarantilis said, announcing the cabinet line-up.

Finance Minister Christos Staikouras, Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos remain in place, as tensions with Turkey over energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean have grown in recent months.

Harry Theoharis also keeps his job as tourist minister, a role that is also central to the Greek economy.

Kostas Skrekas was moved from deputy agriculture minister to take over the energy ministry from Kostis Hatzidakis, who has moved to the labour ministry, a significant portfolio with pension reforms pending and as businesses have suffered during the pandemic.

The economy is expected to have declined by some 10% in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, and hopes for a strong recovery are pinned on the second half of 2021. Greece emerged from a decade-long debt crisis in 2018.

The country has reported 139,447 infections and 4,881 related deaths since its first coronavirus case was detected in February. The latest changes were announced during a nationwide lockdown, the second since the outbreak.

Reporting by Renee Maltezou and Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Paul Simao