Last updated: June 26, 2012 8:31 pm

Greece names new finance minister

Yanniis Stournaras©Reuters

Greece’s coalition government on Tuesday appointed Yannis Stournaras, an economist and head of a business thinktank, as finance minister following the resignation of Vassilios Rapanos the previous day on grounds of poor health.

The week-old coalition suffered another blow earlier in the day when Antonis Samaras, the centre-right prime minister, sacked the deputy shipping minister over a conflict of interest revealed by the leftwing opposition party Syriza.

Mr Stournaras’s appointment was confirmed at an evening meeting of the three party leaders chaired by Mr Samaras.

“The only promise I’m making is to work hard,” Mr Stournaras said. ”We have to be realistic ... We have a hard road ahead, but there are great possibilities, too.”

He was not expected to attend this week’s EU summit in Brussels.

Karolos Papoulias, the president, will represent Greece at the summit as Mr Samaras, recovering from eye surgery, is not allowed to travel. He will be accompanied in Brussels by George Zanias, the departing caretaker finance minister.

The party leaders plan to strengthen the economic team tackling Greece’s three-year-old financial crisis by appointing additional advisers, a conservative aide said.

The finance ministry faces a heavy agenda in the coming weeks, including tough negotiations with the European Union and International Monetary Fund on a possible two-year extension of Greece’s second Euro174bn bailout, the recapitalisation of the country’s largest banks and the acceleration of lagging structural reforms.

Mr Stournaras, 55, helped steer Greece into the euro in 2000 as chief adviser to the finance minister and Greek representative to the EU monetary committee.

After graduating in economics from Athens University he earned a doctorate at Oxford University. He came back to join the Bank of Greece, the country’s central bank, as a researcher.

Mr Stournaras teaches economics at Athens University and is head of IOBE, an independent economic and business think-tank supported by the Greek federation of industrialists. He served as development minister in the caretaker government that oversaw the June 17 election.

The sacking of George Vernicos, a prominent shipowner, came only three days after he was sworn in as deputy shipping minister.

A statement by Syriza, which has pledged to improved transparency in Greek politics, pointed out that under a 2010 law cabinet ministers are not permitted to own shares in companies registered in offshore jurisdictions.

Mr Vernicos claimed he was not aware of the legislation. His family-controlled shipping company, Vernicos Offshore Group, is registered in the Marshall Islands, the Syriza statement said.

“The Greek shipping industry consists to a very large extent of companies registered offshore … If I had been informed of the existence of this law, I would obviously not have taken the post,” Mr Vernicos said.

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