Greek transport minister offers to resign after comments about PM

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 17, 2016 5:07 PM

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's deputy transport minister offered to resign on Wednesday after implying in an interview with a radio station that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had made false promises to farmers who are fiercely resisting pension reforms.

Tsipras, elected last year promising to end austerity but then forced to accept a third international bailout in July, is struggling to conclude a bailout review with official lenders.

A key part of the review is an overhaul of the pension system to make it viable and less of a fiscal burden on the budget.

During election campaigning last year, the leftist Tsipras pledged not to burden farmers with more austerity.

Deputy Transport Minister Panagiotis Sgouridis, alluding to Tsipras's message to farmers, said in the interview that politicians unfortunately are not judged by what they do but what they promise.

"If you don't promise, voters will not vote for you. When someone talks rationally he is not good. This is the truth."

Sgouridis, a lawmaker with the small, right-wing nationalist

Independent Greeks party, junior partner in Tspiras's coalition, offered his resignation over his remarks.

"The prime minister will deal with the issue after he returns from the EU leaders summit in Brussels," Tsipras's office said in a statement responding to Sgouridis's remarks.

Greeks are furious over the pension reform plan, which will entail increased social security and tax payments for many groups of workers. Farmers have rebuffed Tsipras' offer of talks and are continuing blockades of highways.

Sgouridis's predecessor in the job, Dimitris Kammenos, also from the Independent Greeks, also resigned, after having tweeted offensive comments that were seen as anti-semitic.

The coalition of Tsipras' leftist Syriza party and the Independent Greeks has a majority of just three lawmakers in the 300-seat parliament.

(Reporting by George Georgiopoulos; Editing by Mark Heinrich)