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Non-elected SYRIZA finance minister appoints personal aide as head of budget office

The same government which claims it is fighting corruption and “doing away with the old system,” continues patronage appointments

"Greek" finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos with his infamous red backpack. One wonders to whom he is serving coffee.

SYRIZA does it again. The same government which purports to be waging a “war on corruption” and which campaigned on a platform of “doing away with the old system,” is itself perpetuating its very same practices.

Euclid Tsakalotos, the “Marxist” alumnus of elite British private schools and Oxford University, is Greece’s non-elected finance minister, appointed to his position by prime minister Alexis Tsipras. A truly pathetic public presence, Tsakalotos has served as Greece’s “lead negotiator” in talks with the troika (European Union, European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund), attending these meetings wearing his trademark crumpled clothing and sporting a red backpack of the type a high school student would take to school. The symbolism of the “sad sack” Tsakalotos meeting troika officials in their expensive tailored suits for “negotiations” should not be lost on anyone.

It is this “Marxist” economist — who in the past has said that national currencies are outdated — and this government which contends that it is “fighting corruption,” who are guilty of engaging in clientelism and nepotism. Following Hellenic Insider’s recent piece on the tire shop owner appointed as the vice president of Santorini’s public hospital, we now have another patronage appointment, this time involving a Tsakalotos aide.

Frangiskos Koutentakis was previously the general secretary of fiscal policy under the watch of finance minister Tsakalotos. He has now been appointed by Tsakalotos as the head of the state budget office.

Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos with oligarch and PAOK FC owner Ivan Savvidis and family in a suite at PAOK FC arena in Thessaloniki, for the PAOK-Schalke football match, February 16, 2017.

Responding to accusations from an opposition MP in parliament that there is a conflict of interest, as Tsakalotos has selected a personal aide to be the man in charge of approving the budget that he and his ministry are responsible for, Tsakalotos dodged the question and, in his infamously terrible Greek, started talking nonsense, stating that “both the left and PAOK fans have a big heart and are not petty.”

It bears mentioning that Tsakalotos is widely known for being a fanatical supporter of the PAOK football club, based in Thessaloniki. PAOK is owned by the oligarch Ivan Savvidis, known to be very close to and quite favorable towards the SYRIZA government. And it is Savvidis who recently stormed onto the football pitch while openly toting a gun, following a controversial call by the referee in an important match against AEK.

Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos speaks during an interview with Reuters at his office in the Greek finance ministry in Athens, January 30, 2018. A decal of the Ivan Savvidis-owned PAOK football club is visible in the background. (REUTERS/Costas Baltas)

For this incident, Savvidis was never arrested. In a decision issued today, he is barred from entering football stadium for three years, has been fined, and PAOK will lose three points in this year’s league table and start next season with the loss of two points. This very same penalty was levied last year against the Panathinaikos football club in an incident where a fan through a half-filled beer bottle at an opposing player.

So in other words, in SYRIZA’s Greece, throwing a beer bottle and storming the pitch wielding a gun are met with the same exact penalty.

It is for reasons such as this that Greece is now facing official expulsion from international football competition, based on a FIFA recommendation issued yesterday.

And it is practices like this which SYRIZA and Tsakalotos seem to wholeheartedly endorse, through their words and through their actions.

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