ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, beset by plummeting popularity and tough bailout talks, reshuffled his cabinet late Friday, retaining his ministers of finance and foreign affairs and enhancing the powers of his top official for immigration.
U.S.-educated economics professor Dimitri Papadimitriou was appointed development minister, government spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili said.
Papadimitriou, 70, is the president of the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, New York. He replaces George Stathakis, who moved to the energy ministry.
Euclid Tsakalotos retained the finance portfolio, while Ioannis Mouzalas was elevated from deputy minister for migration to head a separate migration ministry — to better address a crisis that has seen more than a million refugees and other migrants flow through Greece towards other European countries. More than 60,000 remain trapped in Greece after a series of Balkan border closures this year.
Tsipras also removed his education and religion minister, Nikos Filis, who was on bad terms with the country's powerful Orthodox Church, and handed cabinet appointments to several unelected officials, risking unrest among his Syriza party lawmakers.
Syriza, re-elected in September 2015, has fallen well behind the main opposition conservatives in popularity as new income cuts and tax hikes demanded by the country's bailout creditors hurt ordinary Greeks. A poll last week gave the conservatives a 24-percentage point lead over Syriza, with 91 percent of respondents saying they were unhappy with the administration.
The left-led government was first elected in January 2015 on a combative anti-bailout program. But, under threat of a disastrous exit from the common euro currency, it quickly reversed initial pledges to restore incomes hammered by years of deep recession, seek debt forgiveness and ease the country out of the austerity straitjacket imposed by international creditors.
Instead, Tsipras signed up to a third multi-billion euro bailout, and his government is in new negotiations with creditors over demanded reforms and cutbacks.
The 49 new cabinet members — three more than in the previous administration — will be sworn in Saturday.