Papademos set to take helm in troubled Greece


A new government headed by Lucas Papademos took office in Greece on Friday tasked with saving the debt-stricken nation from bankruptcy after a power-sharing deal struck between rival parties.
The swearing-in ceremony was delayed by two hours as the coalition partners were still hammering out the cabinet and was to be held at 1400 GMT. Papademos, 64, a former vice-president of the European Central Bank, will lead a transition government which will have to ratify a crucial 130-billion euro ($178 billion) international bailout and pave the way for new elections.
He was welcomed with relief in a country exhausted by two years of austerity and exasperated by political squabbling over cutbacks demanded by its global creditors, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. “A new era, relief in Greece and Europe after historic deal,” trumpeted the centre-left Ethnos newspaper.
Papademos, who played a crucial role in Greece’s entry into the eurozone nearly a decade ago, emphasised its benefits after weeks of speculation that Greece’s problems could force it out of the 17-nation currency club. “The Greek economy is facing huge problems despite the enormous efforts made… Greece is at a crucial crossroads,” he said after being named prime minister on Thursday. “The course will not be easy.” His first job will be to persuade the European Union and International Monetary Fund to disburse an eight-billion-euro slice of aid from a 2010 bailout deal that is needed by December 15 before state coffers run dry.
Then he must force through painful austerity measures exacted as the price for a second EU rescue package which gives Athens 100 billion euros in loans, the same amount in debt reduction and a further 30 billion in guarantees.