ATHENS, GREECE —
Greece's new coalition government formally assumed its duties Wednesday, pledging to enforce creditor-demanded spending cuts and reforms while softening the pain on an austerity-weary population.
Labor Minister George Katrougalos said the new administration elected Sunday has to focus on the reforms that were a key condition for the latest in a series of international bailouts keeping the country afloat.
"Until now the people knew us and backed us as a force of resistance to neoliberalism, establishment politics and corruption," he said at a swearing-in ceremony for Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' new government. "Now we must prove that we are also a force for reform."
Tsipras, at 41 Greece's youngest prime minister in about 150 years, won re-election in the early election despite a rebellion in his party after his remarkable policy U-turn in the summer, when he broke key promises to fight bailout-linked austerity and instead signed a new bailout with even more tax hikes and income cuts.
"It would be naive to say that our path will be strewn with flowers," Deputy Prime Minister Yiannis Dragassakis said. "it will be an uphill course, but there is optimism that we have some time ahead" in which to formulate policies, he added.
To secure the 86-billion-euro ($96 billion) rescue loans, Greece has committed to further reduce pension spending, overhaul the pension and social security system, double taxation on farmers, open restricted markets to competition and push ahead with a large privatization program.
Tsipras' new government retained the core of his previous Cabinet with a few tweaks. These included Yiannis Mouzalas, the widely-respected immigration minister in the caretaker government appointed before the elections, who will remain in his post.
Immigration is a key challenge for Greece, which this year has received more than 260,000 refugees and economic migrants, who cross in rickety boats from Turkey on their way to seek asylum in more affluent European Union members.
Tsipras flew later Wednesday to Brussels for an EU summit on immigration.