Greek Prime Minister says avoiding more austerity is priority

Tuesday 25 June 2013 17.23
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras says country determined to succeed
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras says country determined to succeed

Greece's Prime Minister said that avoiding new austerity measures to fulfill targets in the country's international bailout was a priority of his two-party coalition government.

"Our immediate priority is to return to recovery ahead of time, defeat unemployment, bring in investment, avoid new measures and create jobs for the youth," Antonis Samaras said.

"We have no choice but to succeed and we are determined to succeed," he told ministers at their first cabinet meeting.

Samaras reshuffled his cabinet last night, aiming to bolster his government days after the smallest party in the ruling coalition quit over the closure of state TV, leaving him with a tiny majority in parliament.

As part of the reshuffle, new ministers have been appointed to the posts of foreign affairs, justice, administrative reform, transport and defence, among others.

The key post of finance minister was unchanged, with Yannis Stournaras remaining in the position to push through more wide-ranging economic reforms.

Socialist party head Evangelos Venizelos, who led tough financial negotiations with Greece's creditors during his term as finance minister in 2011 but who has seen his party's popularity plummet, was named deputy prime minister and foreign minister.

The deep financial crisis Greece has been struggling through for the past three years has cused considerable political instability in the country.

Samaras managed to cobble together an uneasy three-party coalition a year ago after two consecutive elections failed to produce a winner with enough parliamentary seats to govern alone.

Greece still faces some of its toughest reforms since it began receiving rescue loans in 2010 from an international bailout from its other euro countries and the International Monetary Fund.

In return for the funds, Athens has pledged a series of deep spending cuts and tax hikes in an effort to reform the economy. But the measures have also led to a deep recession, currently in its sixth year, while unemployment has climbed to above 27%.