Costas Simitis

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Kostas Simitis
Κωνσταντίνος Σημίτης
Konstantinos Simitis 2012-01-23.jpg
78th Prime Minister of Greece
In office
22 January 1996 10 March 2004
President Kostis Stephanopoulos
Preceded by Andreas Papandreou
Succeeded by Kostas Karamanlis
President of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement
In office
30 June 1996 8 February 2004
Preceded by Andreas Papandreou
Succeeded by George Papandreou
Minister of Industry, Energy, Research and Technology
In office
13 October 1993 15 September 1995
Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou
Preceded by Vasileios Kontogiannopoulos
Succeeded by Anastasios Peponis
Minister of Trade
In office
13 October 1993 15 September 1995
Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou
Preceded by Vasileios Kontogiannopoulos
Succeeded by Nikolaos Akritidis
Minister of National Education and Religious Affairs
In office
23 November 1989 13 February 1990
Prime Minister Xenophon Zolotas
Preceded by Konstantinos Despotopoulos
Succeeded by Konstantinos Despotopoulos
Minister of National Economy
In office
26 July 1985 27 November 1987
Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou
Preceded by Gerasimos Arsenis
Succeeded by Panagiotis Roumeliotis
Minister of Agriculture
In office
21 October 1981 26 July 1985
Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou
Preceded by Athanasios Kanellopoulos
Succeeded by Ioannis Pottakis
Personal details
Born (1936-06-23) 23 June 1936 (age 83)
Piraeus, Greece
Political party Panhellenic Socialist Movement
Other political
affiliations
Movement for Change
Spouse(s)Daphni Arkadiou
ChildrenFiona
Marilena
Alma mater University of Marburg
London School of Economics
Website Official website

Konstantinos G. Simitis (Greek : Κωνσταντίνος Γ. Σημίτης; born 23 June 1936), usually referred to as Costas Simitis or Kostas Simitis (Κώστας Σημίτης), is a Greek politician who served as Prime Minister of Greece and was leader of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) from 1996 to 2004.

Contents

Biography

Costas Simitis was born in Piraeus to Georgios Simitis, a Professor at the School of Economic and Commercial Sciences, and to his wife Fani (née Christopoulou). He studied Law at the University of Marburg in Germany and economics at the London School of Economics. He is married to Daphne Arkadiou (b. 1938), and has two daughters, Fiona and Marilena. He currently resides in the Kolonaki district of Athens. His brother Spiros Simitis is a prominent jurist specializing on data privacy in Germany.

Political activity before 1981

In 1965 he returned to Greece and was one of the founders of the "Alexandros Papanastasiou" political research group. In 1967, after the military coup of 21 April, this group was transformed into Democratic Defense, an organization opposed to the military regime. Simitis escaped abroad after planting bombs in the streets of Athens (in later years he acknowledged his activities on Greek MEGA TV channel) in order to avoid being jailed and became a member of the Panhellenic Liberation Movement (PAK), led by Andreas Papandreou. He also took up a position as university lecturer in Germany. He returned to Athens in 1974 and was one of the co-founders of PAK's successor, the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK). In 1977 he took up a lecturer's post at the Panteion University.

Ministerial offices

Simitis was not a candidate for the Greek Parliament in the 1981 elections, but he was appointed Minister of Agriculture in the first PASOK government of that year. Following the 1985 elections and his election as a deputy to the Parliament, he became Minister of National Economy; he undertook an unpopular stabilization program, trying to curb inflation and reduce deficits, but resigned his post in 1987 because he felt that his policies were being undermined. In 1993 he took over the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, but in 1995 he again resigned from the ministry and the party's Executive Bureau following a public rebuke he received by Prime Minister Papandreou.

Rise to the offices of Prime Minister and President of PASOK

On 16 January 1996 Papandreou resigned as Prime Minister due to ill health. In a special election held by the party's parliamentary group on 18 January, Simitis was elected in his place, over the candidacies of Akis Tsochatzopoulos, Gerasimos Arsenis and Ioannis Charalampopoulos. Papandreou however remained Chairman of the party for the next months until his death on 23 June (also Simitis' 60th birthday), just before a party conference would select the party's vice-president; after Papandreou's death, the conference would elect the new Party President. Simitis was elected in PASOK's Fourth Congress on 30 June, defeating Akis Tsochatzopoulos on a platform of support for the European Union.

Simitis then led the party in the national elections of 22 September 1996, gaining a mandate in his own right. He also narrowly won the national election of 2000. Although he is widely respected throughout Europe, in Greece Simitis was regarded by some Greeks as a rather dull technocrat, lacking the charisma of Papandreou.

On 7 January 2004, with PASOK's popularity collapsing, Simitis announced that he would resign as party president and would not stand for re-election a Prime Minister in the forthcoming legislative elections. At the time he was accused of bowing out to avoid humiliation at the polls. However, by the end of his tenure on 10 March, he would be in office for over 8 consecutive years, the longest continuous term in modern Greek history. In a past interview Simitis had already stated that he would remain prime minister for only 2 legislative periods, since "he wanted to do other things in his life as well". On 8 January he called elections for the position of party president to be held on 8 February. Simitis was succeeded as PASOK leader by then-Minister of Foreign Affairs George Papandreou, the only candidate in these elections. Despite Papandreou's personal popularity, PASOK lost the 7 March elections to the conservative New Democracy party, whose leader Kostas Karamanlis succeeded Simitis in the office of Prime Minister.

Political activity after 2004

After the 2004 electoral defeat, Simitis remained a Member of the Hellenic Parliament for Piraeus, sitting on the Standing Committee on National Defence and Foreign Affairs. Re-elected in September 2007, he entered in a conflict with his successor as PASOK leader George Papandreou on the political choices of the party. In June 2008, he was excluded from the PASOK parliamentary group after opposing Papandreou's position in favour of a referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon, [1] [2] which he had helped to draft as member of the Amato Group. Though never formally excluded from the party, he kept his distance with the leadership and could not come to terms with Papandreou in time to be candidate for the 2009 elections, upon which he definitively left his MP seat for Piraeus.

Policies and legacy

Financial policies

Simitis is largely known in Greece for his political philosophy which is known as Eksynchronismos ("modernization") which focuses on extensive public investment and infrastructure works as well as economic and labor reforms. Simitis is credited by his supporters with overcoming chronic problems of the Greek economy and thus achieving the admittance of Greece into the Eurozone. During the period of his governance, official data presented inflation as having decreased from 15% to 3%, public deficits diminished from 14% to 3%, GDP increasing at an annual average of 4% and factual labor incomes having increased at a rate of 3% per year. However, the macroeconomic data presented by Simitis' government were called into question by an audit performed by the successor government of New Democracy in 2004.

Many large-scale infrastructure projects were carried out or begun during the so-called 'era of Eksychronismos', such as the new "Eleftherios Venizelos" Athens International Airport, the Rio-Antirio bridge, the Athens Metro and the Egnatia Odos.

Internal issues

Costas Simitis during budget discussion in 2009 PASOK MPs in the Greek parliament during 2009 budget discussion.jpg
Costas Simitis during budget discussion in 2009

In 2000, Simitis was embroiled in a dispute with the Archbishop of the influential Greek Orthodox Church, Christodoulos of Athens, when the Greek government sought to remove the "Religion" field from the national ID cards carried by Greek citizens on the grounds that the Hellenic Data Protection Authority (HDPA) recommended so; its decision also included the "Nationality" field, but was not implemented following a subsequent EE directive to the contrary. Christodoulos opposed the decision, claiming that the action pursued deviously the religious de-identification of the Greek nation. Faced by the government's robust but unpopular stance, he organised two massive demonstrations in Athens and Thessaloniki, alongside a majority of bishops of the Church of Greece. The attitude of Simitis gained faint-hearted support even within his party, but found a surprisingly militant ally in the Eksychronismos opinion makers.The then-opposition leader signed a petition, organized by the Church of Greece, calling for a referendum on the matter and signed, too, by more than three million citizens. However, the inclusion of religious beliefs on ID cards, even on a voluntary basis, as the Church had asked, was deemed unconstitutional by the Greek courts.

Foreign policy

Costas Simitis with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Romano Prodi. Vladimir Putin in Saint Petersburg-34.jpg
Costas Simitis with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Romano Prodi.

While PASOK traditionalists disliked his move away from the more traditional/orthodox norms of the Democratic socialism of Andreas Papandreou' policies, and also his relative moderation on issues such as the Cyprus dispute and the Macedonia naming dispute, his supporters saw both of these as positive elements of the eksynchronismos movement that Simitis was seen as spearheading.

During January–June 2003, Simitis, as Greek Prime Minister, exercised the presidency of the European Council.

Controversy/criticism

In 1996, the appointment of the PASOK-leaning "To Vima" newspaper editor, Stavros Psycharis, as political administrator of Mount Athos was particularly criticised by the opposition. [3]

A major issue during Simitis' tenure concerned corruption, which become endemic in Greek public life (including the Siemens Greek bribery scandal, incidents like Akis Tsochatzopoulos, who later was imprisoned for criminal actions in the purchase of the German type 214 submarines, etc).

Simitis rejected New Democracy's bills for accountability and transparency with regards to governmental expenditure and decisions, [4] and New Democracy leader Kostas Karamanlis accused Simitis during a parliamentary plenum of being an "archpriest of cronyism", referencing the index of the NGO Transparency International. However, Greece's position has fallen by 5 places[ citation needed ] in the same index during the New Democracy government. Four years later Karamanlis himself admitted that he exaggerated and that he never doubted Simitis' personal integrity. [5]

Other points of criticism included the financial crash of 1999 in the Athens Exchange, such as his handling of the Imia incident in the foreign relations with Turkey.

As of 2018, Simitis was under prosecutor investigation regarding the Siemens Greek bribery scandal, but was later exonerated. [6]

Validity of statistical data

New Democracy revised the size of the defense expenditures for the years 1997 – 2003, by changing the regulation for the cost accounting of the defense expenditures, from the date of delivery of war material (delivery basis), which was at the time followed by half the countries of the EU, to the payment date of the advance payments (cash basis). Eurostat accepted the change, because of the lack of reliable data for the deliveries of war material. [7] By the revision of the defense expenditures of 1999 the deficit of 1999, the year of the Greek economy’s evaluation, amounted to 3.1%. Since 2005, Eurostat changed its rules records the defense expenditures according to the delivery date for all the countries of the EU including Greece. Eurostat requested then the member countries to correct their data retroactively. Greece did not proceed to the rectification.[ citation needed ]

The deficit of 1999, year of the Greek economy’s evaluation, is still presented to be 3.1% of the Gross National product (GNP), greater than the Maastricht criterion for a deficit lower than 3% of the GNP. Subsequent revisions of the data show also other countries exceeding the fiscal deficit (government deficit) of 3% during the evaluation period. Thus, in 1997, which is the year of the evaluation of the first countries that became members of the Euro zone, the deficit of France was 3.3%, of Spain 3.4% and of Portugal 3.4%. [8] [9]

Works

Simitis has authored several books and articles on legal and economic issues as well as on politics.

Political works

See also

Related Research Articles

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References

  1. "Simitis Ousted from Parliamentary Group". XPAT Athens. Athens. 13 June 2008. Archived from the original on 1 February 2014. Retrieved 23 January 2014.
  2. "Simitis out of Par'l group". Athens News Agency . Athens. 12 June 2008. Retrieved 23 January 2014.
  3. Eleftherotypia, Psycho, To tris examartein Archived 29 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine , 19/11/1996
  4. https://www.bbc.co.uk/greek/news/031125_vouli.shtml
  5. https://web.archive.org/web/20110928092250/http://news.kathimerini.gr/4dcgi/_w_articles_politics_100070_02/09/2007_239755
  6. Ανοίγουν τους λογαριασμούς Σημίτη
  7. Vima 12.3.2006 http://tovima.dolnet.gr/printarticle.php?e=baf=1471am=D02&aa=1%5B%5D
  8. http://ec.europa.eu/economy-finance/emu-history/documents/pdf/5pd
  9. Be Inc. (12 October 2012). "Statistical Annex of European Economy - Autumn 2012" (PDF). European Commission. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 December 2017. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
Government offices
Preceded by
Athanasios Kanellopoulos
Minister of Agriculture
1981–1985
Succeeded by
Ioannis Pottakis
Preceded by
Gerasimos Arsenis
Minister of National Economy
1985–1987
Succeeded by
Panagiotis Roumeliotis
Preceded by
Konstantinos Despotopoulos
Minister of National Education and
Religious Affairs

1989–1990
Succeeded by
Konstantinos Despotopoulos
Preceded by
Vasileios Kontogiannopoulos
Minister of Industry, Energy, Research and
Technology

1993–1995
Succeeded by
Anastasios Peponis
Minister of Trade
1993–1995
Succeeded by
Nikolaos Akritidis
Political offices
Preceded by
Andreas Papandreou
Prime Minister of Greece
1996 2004
Succeeded by
Kostas Karamanlis
Party political offices
Preceded by
Andreas Papandreou
President of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement
1996–2004
Succeeded by
George Papandreou
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Anders Fogh Rasmussen
President of the European Council
2003
Succeeded by
Silvio Berlusconi