Having spent his first four years in office trying to establish Greece's independence in foreign policy, Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou appears intent in his second term on turning the attention of his government to the far more intractable problems of the Greek economy.
The shift in focus, according to government officials, signals no change in the intensely nationalistic foreign policy of Papandreou's first term that frequently put him at odds with the United States, the country's key postwar ally.
The message has been conveyed by a series of Cabinet and sub-Cabinet changes that the 66-year-old Socialist leader unveiled here during the past week before Greece's political elite departed for their August vacations.
Having coasted for almost two months on an interim Cabinet since his Panhellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok) won a new four-year electoral mandate in national elections June 2, Papandreou announced a "streamlined" 16-member Cabinet a week ago. He said he hoped the new appointees would help break the traditional bureaucratic logjams of Greek government.
Although he named a new foreign minister as well as a new minister of the national economy, he made clear that the focus of the new government would be the economy rather than foreign affairs, which had dominated his attention during his first four years in office.
"The international establishment is watching the experiment of Greece's transition to socialism," he said in announcing the Cabinet, "and efforts are needed to achieve rapid development." He urged all Greeks to support this "great experiment" to transform Greece into a modern nation.
That emphasis was underscored by the appointment of the new ministers' secretaries general -- the key people who will run the bureaucracy that Papandreou repeatedly has blamed for the slowness of the economic and social changes he promised when his party was swept into power in 1981.
Appointing the 21 new ministry secretaries general on Friday, Papandreou said he expected them to establish a "new rhythm and aggressive spirit in government policy."
Since taking office, the U.S.-educated economist has bemoaned the "dead weight of the civil service bureaucracy" that he inherited, calling it "an obstacle" to the changes he sought to enact in Greece.
Greek and foreign analysts have said this is one reason why Papandreou seemed to devote more attention to foreign affairs in his first term.
In focusing now on the country's faltering economy, the government is confronted with a dearth of investment, an inflation rate exceeding 17 percent a year and a foreign debt running at 37 percent of the gross domestic product.
In that context, the surprise of the new Cabinet appointments was the elevation of former agriculture minister Costas Simitis to the key post of national economics minister. He replaced the former czar of Greek economic policy, Gerasimos Arsenis, a respected former central bank official.
Simitis, considered a committed socialist (and a member of the party's 10-member executive committee), also is a respected economist who, according to European and other western diplomats here, impressed his counterparts when he chaired to the European Community's agricultural commission during Greece's recent rotating presidency of the Common Market.
"He is a smart, capable and excellent man for the job," said one European diplomat here, "who has clearly been appointed because in the next few years the improvement of the economy is going to dictate the success or failure of the Papandreou government."
The focus on economic issues, however, will not mean any change in the independent foreign policy that so marked the Papandreou government's first term. As a senior Foreign Ministry official, who asked that his name not be used, put it: "You will note that of all the changes in the government the one ministry that has been least affected is ours. For us, it will be business as usual."
The official noted that although former foreign minister Ioannis Haralambopoulos has been promoted to the position of deputy prime minister, his chief responsibilities remain the supervision of foreign affairs. His former deputy, Carolos Papoulias, will manage the foreign policy portfolio under the deputy prime minister's aegis.
"Anyone hoping for a shift in our foreign policy is going to be sorely disappointed," the official said. "Economics may be the new focus of government activity, but in foreign policy there is going to be no change at all."