Omnibus bill, Sharia and name issue dominated cabinet meeting, sources say

The first cabinet meeting of 2018 chaired by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras focused primarily on the draft omnibus bill that will be tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, sources said after the conclusion of Monday’s meeting.

Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos made a detailed presentation of the negotiations held with Greece’s creditors, the sources said, outlining the gains made by the Greek side. These included an increase in the size of the family benefits’ budget from 650 million euros to 910 million euros and priority compensation to employees rather than banks when auctioning the assets of bankrupt companies.

The meeting was also addressed by cabinet ministers whose portfolios were impacted by the omnibus bill, such as Environment and Energy Minister George Stathakis, Labour Minister Efi Achtsioglou, Alternate Labour Minister Theano Fotiou and Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis.

Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias then gave a detailed briefing on the negotiations between Greece and Albania to resolve a series of bilateral issues, as well as the position that Athens will support in negotiations with FYROM on the name issue.

According to the sources, the minister said that Athens is going to the negotiations with FYROM on the name issue with the same position presented in 2007-2008, which calls for a compound name with a geographical qualifier for use in relations to everyone (erga omnes).

The sources also quoted Kotzias as saying that the present government “had inherited problems” from the past, due to a foreign policy approach that favoured “not taking initiatives and expecting to win everything at some point.” The foreign minister criticised this approach as “lacking seriousness,” the same sources said, while noting that the government had the courage to proceed responsibly to a resolution of problems.

Draft legislation on Sharia law, presented by Education Minister Costas Gavroglou, also occupied the cabinet, the sources added, noting that it was a first step to imminent “radical changes” concerning this issue.