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The new strong man of Greek finances

14 January 2014 / 18:01:07  GRReporter
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The revelations of "To Vima" newspaper that Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has approved Stavros Papastavrou as successor to Minister of Finance Yiannis Stournaras has caused a commotion among political and business circles and provoked numerous discussions.

The announced withdrawal of the Minister of Finance at the end of this spring in order for him to take over the post of Governor of the Bank of Greece has placed Papastavrou at the centre of events.

According to well-informed sources, it seems that the Prime Minister has decided to entrust the Ministry of Finance to his close adviser Stavros Papastavrou, who enjoys his full confidence.

The reaction of PASOK

PASOK has responded by stating that it is surprised by the ongoing public discussion and it has declared its disapproval.

The party headquarters state that the issue of the replacement of George Provopoulos, the present Governor of the Bank of Greece, was not the subject of discussion at the meetings between Prime Minister Samaras and PASOK Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos.

The Prime Minister’s office had just stated that the transfer of Yiannis Stournaras to the Bank of Greece was not considered and that he was defined as "stable" during confidential conversations.

Stavros Papastavrou is not just anybody. The diplomatic adviser to Antonis Samaras is very well aware of the "battle" with the supervisory Troika that usually takes place in the so-called "War room" in the Prime Minister's Maximou residence.
The 46-year-old lawyer is the person who knows all the critical points of the negotiations with the lenders’ representatives, he has an opinion on all outstanding issues related to the requirements of the memorandum and any existing "black holes".

The indispensable adviser

He has quickly become indispensable to the Prime Minister who, since the very first moments of their cooperation, has used all his skills and acquaintances as well as his flexibility in the "corridors" of economic power.

In the first stage of his presidency in New Democracy Antonis Samaras appointed him secretary of international relations, thus including him in his close circle.

In the period when New Democracy ruled Greece (2004-2009) and Konstantinos Karamanlis was Prime Minister and party leader, Papastavrou occupied a similar position.

Although Karamanlis included him in the list of New Democracy for the European elections, he had never made him part of the so-called "Group of Rafina".

A few months ago, many were surprised when a photo of Samaras with Papastavrou, who is one of his most discreet, capable and effective associates, appeared on the page of his interview for a Sunday newspaper.

Study at Harvard

Stavros Papastavrou graduated with honours in law from Athens University and obtained a master's degree from Harvard. He has years of experience, he is politically active, but not just as a representative of a centre-right party as he uses the fact that he is a graduate of the prestigious Athens University and therefore has very good connections and acquaintances.

In the 1990s, he was Chief Secretary for International Relations and the European Union of the Youth Organisation of New Democracy and elected member of the youth parliamentary group. He was also European Union chairman of the European People's Party (1997-2001).

Papastavrou is one of the most industrious members of the Prime Minister’s team and, with the approval of Samaras, he has been appointed in the team that monitors the government activities and has already borne the burden of a significant part of the negotiations with the Troika.

The Prime Minister's adviser has travelled thousands of miles to take part in informal meetings with the heads of the Troika in the Prime Minister's residence or in the relevant ministries.

The "Lagarde list"

During his tenure as diplomatic adviser to Prime Minister Samaras Papastavrou was involved in the case of the so-called "Lagarde list" when it became clear that he was a joint holder of an account of $550 million.

Papastavrou immediately stated that this was an attempt by SYRIZA "to cover him with mud" by accusing him of "political immorality". He also stressed that he had nothing to do with the account in question and his only involvement in the disputed list was associated with an account to the amount of $5.4 million held by one of his clients. Antonis Samaras accepted his explanations and his place in the close circle of the prime minister was not affected in any way.

A person for special missions

Samaras assigned various special tasks to him and he had even preferred him to "unfreeze" the memorandum of cooperation between Germany and Greece signed in March 2011 by Prime Minister of the time George Papandreou and Angela Merkel.

Those who are aware of the developments know that, from time to time, Papastavrou had had lunch with the representative of the International Monetary Fund, Paul Thomsen, and with other key players in the negotiations between the Greek government and its lenders.

For example, as Coordinator of Greek-German Business Relations he delivered to Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany Emily Haber a folder containing ten sectors of the Greek-German cooperation.

Another specific mission performed by Papastavrou was his trip to Switzerland, along with Deputy Minister of Finance George Mavraganis, to discuss the issue of the lists of Greek depositors in Swiss banks with the Swiss government.

Therefore, Stavros Papastavrou knows a lot of secrets...

The position of Yiannis Stournaras

In connection with the scenarios for his removal from the Ministry of Finance and his appointment to the post of Governor of the Bank of Greece, Stournaras states that he is not concerned about this issue.

"I am fighting for the economy, I am interested in the present because this battle will be long. I am not thinking about tomorrow, my mind is focused on today's battle that we must win. I do not mind these scenarios because I am not thinking about them, I have no time to think about them", states Stournaras, adding that he has excellent relations with Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos and enjoys the support of the Prime Minister.

"We have achieved 80% of what we need to do, we have removed the causes of the crisis, we have a primary surplus and we have neutralised the current account deficit", states the Minister of Finance, specifying that the Troika will arrive in Athens in a few days.

"We want to slow down the developments in order to have available the final December data," says Stournaras.

As for the issue of mass layoffs, the Minister of Finance states that "no company is raising today the question of mass layoffs, we have comprehensive evidence that they are not necessary."

"I think that the Troika will agree on avoiding mass layoffs" the Minister of Finance points out, reiterating that "70% of the excess revenues generated from the primary surplus will be allocated to the most vulnerable social groups."

Meanwhile, the Minister of Finance has declared himself against any new haircut of the Greek debt.

"The issue of the nominal debt haircut has not been raised, the parliamentary procedures and the constitutions of the 18 eurozone member states do not allow this", said Stournaras, adding that "a similar procedure would destabilise the eurozone" and that "the unilateral write-off of the debt means exiting the euro."

"The constitution of each of the 18 eurozone member states does not allow the reduction of the nominal value of the debt," states the Minister of Finance.

"The PSI procedure is one thing, but causing loss to the German or Austrian nationals or to the citizens of countries poorer than Greece by haircutting the debt is quite another. Do you believe that we would be able to reduce the debt with those countries that are poorer than us?" asks Stournaras.

The Minister of Finance however insists on the debt-restructuring scenario. "We want debt restructuring and we will achieve it", he states, confident that Greece's partners will take the necessary measures, and points out that the relevant discussion will start in February.

Tags: Minister of FinanceYiannis StournarasStavros PapastavrouAdviser to Prime Minister
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