24 January 1996

Theodoros Pangalos

Theodoros Pangalos

By Patrick Comerford

Born 1938, the grandson of a famous Greek general educated at Athens University and the Sorbonne, Ph.D.

In the news because: One of the most striking changes in the Greek cabinet by Costas Simitis is the appointment of Pangalos to replace Karolos Papoulias as Foreign Minister.

Early activism: Founder member of the Grigoris Lambrakis Youth Movement, candidate for the left-wing EDA party in 1964, active in opposition to the colonels' regime, deprived of Greek citizenship 1968.

In exile: Lecturer and researcher in economic development and town planning at the Sorbonne.

Later career: Head of Economic Development Institute, 1969, 1978 law practice in Athens and legal adviser to trade unions active in environmental issues, author of several works on economics, sociology and philosophy.

Qualifications for the job: Fluent in French, English and German, one of Greece's best versed diplomats on EU affairs, Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs, 1987 1988 and 1993 Minister of State for European Affairs, 1987 1988. Praised for hard work on expanding the EU to 15 members from 12 during the Greek presidency in 1994.

What’s he like? “Pangalos is outspoken but he’s also engaging, articulate and a good negotiator. When it comes to the EU, he knows his stuff,” one EU diplomat said. Others say he is a pragmatic, flexible negotiator, not rooted in Greek parochialism.

Opponents: Diplomatic sources say some EU states indicated they preferred someone else.

Why? Pangalos insulted both Germany and Italy when he was European Affairs Minister during the Greek presidency. He described Germany as “a giant with bestial force and a child’s brain”. He later apologised publicly, but ended Greece’s presidency by dodging a handshake with the then Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi.

He criticised EU partners for allowing Turkey to “drag its bloodied boots on European carpets”. He supports Cyprus joining the EU and expects to be involved directly in a US initiative on the Cypriot question.

Any critics at home? He was critical of Andreas Papandreou’s ability to govern and has enjoyed little support within the party. The right-wing opposition and press have attacked Simitis for appointing both Pangalos and the former European Commissioner, Vasso Papandreou, to his cabinet.

But? The pro-government Eleftherotypia said Simitis had shown himself “more daring” than he first appeared, and Pangalos would add new weight to Greek foreign policy, “a major test” for the government.

Last word to Thanos Veremis of the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy: “He may surprise you. He is a realistic negotiator, and he’s willing to take responsibility for his decisions. He has a big mouth but everyone is hoping Simitis will be able to tranquillise him.”

This news feature was published in ‘The Irish Times’ on 24 January 1996

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