For many in the ruling Syriza party and the opposition, the resignation of former economy minister Dimitris Papadimitriou was considered necessary, as he was residing in the Kolonaki flat for which his wife, ex-alternate labour minister Rania Antonopoulou had obtained a full state rent subsidy, to the tune of 1,000 euros a months.
“Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras accepted the resignation of Economy and Development Minister Dimitris Papadimitriou and thanked him for his contribution,” a terse announcement from the PM’s office stated.
The announcement of Antonopoulou’s resignation the previous day was a bit more generous with praise, as she is credited with measures that helped reduce unemployment.
“Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras accepted the resignation of the Alternate Social Solidarity Minister [it is the ministry of labour and social solidarity], Ms. R. Antonopoulou, and thanked her for her important offering over three years.”
Tsipras finally decided to abolish the law which allowed ministers who were not permanent residents of Athens, even those who were not MPs, to have the state cover their rent. There was no income criterion for issuing the handout.
The provision that extended the generous stipend to extra-parliamentary ministers was passed as an attachment to the third bailout memorandum in 2015, which just happened to also slash pensions.
Syriza MPs were up in arms over the whole affair, as it cast doubt on the government’s self-professed moral advantage over New Democracy and Pasok, the two parties that had governed previously.
By all appearances, it seems that Antonopoulou was sacked after refusing to immediately resign.
Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos had earlier said that the PM told her that her action was wrong and that he was expecting her response. That came in the form of a defiant, lengthy announcement that she should be judged by her work and that the subsidy was perfectly legal – which it was. She wrote that she was as at the disposal of the prime minister, but refused to resign.
Earlier, New Democracy spokesperson Maria Spyraki said the least Antonopooulou could do was to return the 23,000 in taxpayers’ money that she had received.