Saturday, September 25

Mitsotakis remodels his cabinet after criticism of wildfires but keeps key ministers


Correspondent in Athens

Updated:

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This Tuesday the government spokesman Yanis Ikonomu announced the new appointments of the prime minister Kiriakos Mitsotakis with some changes destined to face the political autumn and the many criticisms that have meant a reduction of its wide difference with the radicals party in the last polls. The fundamental criticisms refer to the measures against the pandemic and the state’s actions during the great fires of this month of August. Something that has meant in recent polls a decline in the big difference that exists between the two largest parties in the country, New Democracy (ND) and Syriza. The difference was 12 percent in favor of ND and now it is 10%.

Mitsotakis has not made big changes in the big ministries (Economy, Foreign, Labor, Education). But has replaced the hitherto Minister of Health, Vasilis Kikilias, an orthopedic doctor who has had to deal with emergencies in the Hellenic health system, caused by the pandemic and vaccinations. He has done so by appointing a deputy from the most conservative sector of the party, Athanasios (Thanos) Plévris, a man who knows the Greek legal and health system in depth. He will be supported as vice minister by the pulmonologist doctor Mina Gágas, until now president of the Central Health Council, the body that directs the fight against Covid-19. They will have to face the problems of the vaccination obligation in the health sector from tomorrow and possibly in other sectors (civil servants, teachers etc.) as well as its consequences. The good work of Kikilias has been rewarded with the Ministry of Tourism, considered a fundamental position in the country’s economy, but with less tension. The tourism industry is in a recovery phase, but the pandemic has left its mark.

Another great change has been that of the Minister of Citizen Protection, Mijalis Jrisojoidis, a veteran socialist in this position, as he was also in other previous governments. He got, thanks to the Police and the support of the Army, that thousands of illegal immigrants will not enter across the border with Turkey last March. He is replaced by Panayotis (Takis) Theorikakos, a close associate of Mitsotakis who had already been Minister of the Interior.

Apostolakis rejects the charge

And the prime minister has created a new Ministry of Civil Protection which includes Civil Protection responsibilities until now, but with the Fire Department added. He was scheduled to hold the position Evánguelos Apostolakis, a retired admiral who had been Chief of the Defense Staff and for a few months Defense Minister in the last government of Alexis Tsipras. However, this Cretan military man, highly respected in the country, has refused to swear in office when he has seen that the party did not support his appointment. This step back, after an appointment had been announced, had never been taken before.

Other changes have also been made at the deputy minister level. The most prominent has been that of Nikos Jardaliás, the until now Deputy Minister of Civil Protection, who will be the new Deputy Minister of Defense. A reward for a man whose weariness during fighting fires nearly cost him his life (He suffered a heart attack when he was at the foot of the flames) and whose effectiveness came to be questioned by a critical sector of public opinion, led by many radicals. Of course, there were no deaths from these fires and if two volunteers died, who helped the firefighters and died from accidents.

And there have been some more changes: the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure has been reinforced with a new deputy minister, Mijalis Papadópulos, as well as that of Agriculture with a deputy minister in charge of fisheries policy, Simos Kedikoglu. And in Foreign Affairs, the new deputy minister who will take care of what is known as “the Greeks of the diaspora” (from abroad) will be Andreas Katsaniotis.

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