"Mr. Euro" named Greek finance minister

Tue Jun 26, 2012 1:43pm EDT
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By Deepa Babington and Lefteris Papadimas

ATHENS (Reuters) - Yannis Stournaras, a well-respected liberal economist, was appointed Greece's new finance minister on Tuesday after the sudden resignation of the first choice for the job at a crucial moment for the debt-laden country.

The new conservative-led government scrambled to make a quick decision on the post after banker Vassilis Rapanos quit on Monday on the advice of doctors after spending four days in hospital with dizziness and abdominal pains.

His sudden resignation threw the government into confusion at a time when it faces the daunting task of trying to persuade skeptical international lenders to ease the harsh terms of a bailout that has enraged the population. � With Greece weeks away from running out of cash and in desperate need of a minister to lead negotiations with lenders, party officials said the three ruling coalition leaders quickly agreed on Samaras's choice of Stournaras, 55, who is nicknamed "Mr. Euro" in Greece.

He faces a difficult juggling act - pushing for more time and money from skeptical foreign lenders while coaxing reluctant officials at home to push through unpopular reforms.

"Stournaras is a serious, respected person who will inspire some confidence in the markets. But he is entering a bad government, where many old-style, spendthrift politicians are occupying key positions," said political analyst John Loulis.

"He will have to wage a hard battle against them. He is entering the wolf's lair and he won't survive without the prime minister's solid support."

The Samaras government has been in place less than a week but already looks accident prone after deputy Shipping Minister George Vernikos also resigned on Tuesday. He had been attacked by the media and opposition for using offshore companies.

Ministers are banned from using such companies, which are a common tactic by wealthy Greeks to avoid taxes.   Continued...

General Director of the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) Yannis Stournaras addresses journalists during a news conference in Athens in this April 2, 2012 file photo. Greek coalition leaders are expected to appoint Yannis Stournaras, a respected economist who was part of the team that negotiated the country's entry into the euro, as new finance minister, four officials from parties in the coalition government said on June 26, 2012. Picture taken April 2, 2012. REUTERS/Yorgos Karahalis/Files