February 17, 2020

Economist Lucas Papademos Named Prime Minister of Greece

The announcement came after four days of often chaotic negotiations that put the feuding among Greece’s political parties on full display.

Mr. Papademos, who has a low-key, avuncular manner, emerged from the presidential office building shortly after the statement about his new post was released at midday and spoke briefly with reporters, striking an optimistic note.

“The course will not be easy,” he said. “But the problems, I’m convinced, will be solved. They will be solved faster, with a smaller cost and in an efficient way, if there is unity, agreement and prudence.”

Mr. Papademos has only a few weeks to persuade Greece’s creditors in the so-called troika — the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank — to release its next block of aid, $11 billion, before the country runs out of money. Then he must begin fulfilling the painful terms of an even larger loan.

He will have to move swiftly to reassure the European leaders there will be no repeat of the shock they suffered in October, when the former prime minister, George A. Papandreou, after negotiating a new $177 billion loan, decided without warning to submit the bailout package to a referendum. The move infuriated the Europeans, who had concocted the Greek bailout as part of a painstakingly negotiated broader effort to stabilize the euro. It also started the clock on the end of Mr. Papandreou’s tenure.

Mr. Papademos will have to deal with 2011 budget shortfalls and the passage of a 2012 budget that is expected to call for another round of austerity measures in a climate of growing social unrest. He will also have to start what are expected to be difficult negotiations with private sector banks that have agreed, in principle, to write off 50 percent of the face value of their Greek bond holdings as part of the rescue plan.

As if to underscore the problems, the national statistics authority reported on Thursday that unemployment had jumped to a record high 18.4 percent in August, a month when the tourist season normally lowers the rate, from 16.5 percent in July.

Mr. Papademos almost did not get the job. After Mr. Papandreou agreed on Sunday to step aside once a new coalition government had been formed, the parties could not seem to stop fighting long enough to settle on a candidate. With new elections expected early next year, all sides were maneuvering for strategic advantages. On Wednesday evening, Mr. Papandreou went on television to give his farewell speech as prime minister and was expected to announce a different successor.

But some 50 members of his party, and members of the opposition as well, pressed for Mr. Papademos, seen as an outsider to the old-boy political networks — a technocrat, perhaps able to take Greece on a new path. But it was not an easy sell. Some analysts here have said that the political parties were reluctant to embrace him because he would be an unknown, and perhaps a rival, at election time.

Only after another five hours of negotiations on Thursday morning did the president’s office issue a written statement confirming that Mr. Papademos would take on the task of trying to bring Greece’s economy back from the brink. It was unclear on Thursday night what his cabinet might look like.

News reports earlier this week said that Mr. Papademos had also set certain conditions before he was willing to take the post that had added to some of the reluctance to embrace him. The reports said he wanted a term of at least six months; earlier, the major political parties had agreed to new elections in just 100 days.

Other reports said that Mr. Papademos was insisting that members of the main opposition New Democracy party play a significant role in the unity government. It was widely reported that the opposition, headed by Antonis Samaras, had resisted participating, not wanting to be linked to deeply unpopular reforms with an election around the corner.

But standing outside the presidential palace, Mr. Papademos said he had not made any demands before accepting the job. He also said the new unity government would be “transitional,” and its priority would be to make sure that Greece stayed in the euro zone. “I am convinced that Greece’s continued participation in the euro zone is a guarantee for the country’s stability and future prosperity,” he said.

Whether he will succeed remains an open question. But some analysts said they considered his appointment to be Greece’s best shot.

Niki Kitsantonis and Dimitris Bounias contributed reporting.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/11/world/europe/greek-leaders-resume-talks-on-interim-government.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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