Cabinet members in the new Tsipras government assembled in two groups at the presidential mansion in central Athens on Tuesday afternoon for the customary swearing-in ceremony, in what turned out to be a very unprecedented affair.
The first group – nine people in all, including all four members of the right-wing junior coalition partner AN.EL party — took the traditional religious oath of office. Ecclesiastical chants harking back to Byzantium’s glory days by robed Orthodox priests; a gilded Bible prominently adoring a centrally placed table, which the new appointees touched as they swore their oath, and the making of the sign of the cross were the regiment followed for this ceremony — the same one used all Greek governments in recent memory.
The second, larger group, including practically all of the Cabinet members hailing from leftist SYRIZA party took their queue from new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who on Monday – at the same venue — swore an oath to his conscience and to the rule of law.
Those favoring the religious oath were Independent Greeks (AN.EL) party leader Panos Kammenos, the new DM, ex-fashion model-turned politician and new tourism minister Elena Kountoura, deputy minister of state and one-time TV news reader Terence Spencer Nikolaos Quick, Macedonia-Thrace minister Maria Kollia and Panayiotis Sgourides, a long-time former PASOK cadre. SYRIZA members that joined in the religious oath were new health minister Panayiotis Kouroumblis, a well-liked blind attorney who also transferred from the once-dominant PASOK party, Yiannis Panousis, the alternate citizens’ protection minister; the minister of state for the newly created anti-corruption portfolio, Panayiotis Nikoloudis, and Dimitris Mardas, an alternate FinMin.
Several of the new Cabinet members hailing from within SYRIZA’s ranks will be sworn in by taking a civilian oath, rather than the usual, religious one. The latter protocol will be followed by the four right-wing AN.EL members included in radical leftist SYRIZA’s coalition government.
At press time, PM Alexis Tsipras and his new cabinet are arriving at the Mansion.
N. Kotzias’ first statements as Foreign Affairs Minister pointed to his departure for Brussels on Thursday. He will be taking part in the emergency Summit of Foreign Affairs Ministers of the EU, in order to discuss sanctions against Russia on the Ukraine issue.