Greece's new finance minister quits25/06/2012 - 21:31:08
The banker who was chosen to be Greece’s next finance minister resigned for health reasons today, three days after he was admitted to hospital.
Meanwhile, the country’s prime minister was confined to his home, recovering from serious eye surgery.
Greece’s debt woes took a back seat to the health problems of the country’s five-day-old government, forcing debt inspectors to postpone a visit to Athens and prompting Germany to warn that a European Union summit later this week would be unlikely to produce any major decisions on Greece.
Prime minister Antonis Samaras accepted the resignation of Vassilis Rapanos hours after being discharged from another hospital himself following an operation to repair a detached retina over the weekend.
Mr Rapanos, chairman of the National Bank of Greece, was named finance minister in the country’s new three-party coalition government last week but became ill on Friday before he could be sworn in.
The Hygeia Hospital said his condition was improving and he is expected to be discharged tomorrow, but it did not elaborate on what he was suffering from.
Mr Rapanos said in his letter of resignation: “The recent incident that led to my admission to a hospital shows that my health problem has not been fully overcome.”
Talks with his doctors led him to determine that “my health situation, for the time being, is not such that would allow me to fully and efficiently exercise my duties”.
As he had not been sworn in, outgoing finance minister Giorgos Zanias, a key negotiator for Greece’s international bailout before assuming the post in a one-month caretaker government, still holds the title.
Mr Samaras will have to remain at home for several days and will be unable to travel to the EU summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, although he can have meetings, doctors said.
He spoke by telephone this evening with US president Barack Obama.
The EU summit comes just a week after Greece’s new coalition government was formed, following months of political turmoil and two inconclusive elections.
It was to have been a key test of Athens’ hopes of renegotiating some of the austerity measures it has agreed to in return for billions of euros in rescue loans from the International Monetary Fund and other nations in the 17-country euro currency union.
But before this week’s summit, international debt inspectors known as the troika – representatives from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF – had been due to visit Athens to review Greece’s financial situation.
They postponed the trip due to Mr Samaras’s and Mr Rapanos’s admissions to hospital.