Costas Simitis

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Costas Simitis
Born June 23 1936
Title 9th Prime Minister of the 3rd Hellenic Republic
Term January 18, 1996 - March 7, 2004
Predecessor Andreas Papandreou
Successor Costas Caramanlis
Political party PASOK
(Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement)
Spouse Daphni Arkadiou
Image:Coat of arms of Greece.png

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Constantinos Simitis (Greek: Κωνσταντίνος Σημίτης) (born June 23, 1936), usually referred to as Costas Simitis, was Prime Minister of Greece and leader of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) from 1996 to 2004.


[edit] Biography

Costas Simitis was born in Piraeus to Georgios (George) Simitis, a Professor at the School of Economic and Commercial Sciences, and to his wife Fani (nee Christopoulou). He studied Law at the University of Marburg in Germany and economics at the London School of Economics. He is married to Daphne Arcadiou and has two daughters, Fiona and Marilena.

[edit] Political activity before 1981

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

[edit] Being a minister

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 after a disagreement with Prime Minister Papandreou.

[edit] Becoming President of PASOK

On January 18, 1996 on the resignation of Papandreou through ill-health Simitis was elected Prime Minister, defeating Akis Tsochatzopoulos and Gerasimos Arsenis in a special election, held among the party's parliamentary team. Simitis took office on January 22. However Papandreou remained Chairman of the party for the next several months, until his death, on June 23, 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 leader of PASOK on June 30, defeating Akis Tsochatzopoulos on a platform of support for the European Union.

Image:Simitis ue.jpg
Costas Simitis

[edit] Prime Minister

Simitis then led the party in the national elections of September 22, 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.

In 2004, PASOK's popularity was collapsing and in January 7 Simitis announced that he would resign as party president and would not be a candidate for prime minister in the next elections. He was accused of bowing out to avoid humiliation at the polls. At the time, he had been Prime Minister of Greece for 8 consecutive years, more than anyone else in modern Greek political history. In a past interview Simitis had already stated that he will remain prime minister for only 2 legislative periods, since "he wanted to do other things in his life as well". On January 8 he called elections for the position of party president to be held on February 8. Simitis was succeeded as PASOK leader by then-Minister of Foreign Affairs George Papandreou. Despite Papandreou's personal popularity, PASOK lost the March 7 elections to the conservative New Democracy party. So, Costas Caramanlis succeeded Simitis in the office of Prime Minister.

[edit] Policy and Legacy

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 harsh problems of the Greek economy and thus achieving the admitance of Greece into the Eurozone. During his governing, 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 Eurostat, as well as the Financial Audit of 2004, conducted by the subsequent administration. Eurostat concluded in 2006 that the public deficit of the Greek economy amounted to 6,1% in 2003 ; more than double the percentage presented by Costas Simitis's government. [1] Many infrastructure works were constructed during the so-called 'era of Eksychronismos', ie the new Athens International Airport, "Eleftherios Venizelos", Rio-Antirio bridge, Athens Metro. Supporters, such as Theodoros Pangalos, a prominent PASOK MP, have compared Simitis to Greek figurehead reformer politicians of the past such as Charilaos Trikoupis and Eleftherios Venizelos, who are commonly considered as great reformers of Greece[2]. Nonetheless, the same politician has recently made sharply conflicting statements, castigating Simitis's PASOK government for having "destroyed the country after 2000" and "having made a mess in most sectors" [3].

[edit] Criticism

The opposition party of New Democracy has strongly criticized Simitis' government. 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 parliamenary plenum of being an "archpriest of cronyism", referencing the index of NGO Transparency International. However, Greece's position has fallen by 5 places in the same index during Karamanlis' governance.

The appointment of the PASOK-leaning "To Vima" newspaper editor, Stavros Psycharis, as administrator of Mount Athos was, also,particularly criticised by the opposition [5].

In March 2004, while PASOK was still in government, Eurostat refused to validate the fiscal data transmitted by the Greek government and asked for a revision, as it had done previously -twice- in 2002, then resulting in a revision which changed the government balance from a surplus to a deficit.

The New Democracy government under Karamanlis, elected on April of that year, decided to conduct a Financial Audit of the Greek economy, before sending revised data to Eurostat. The audit concluded that the PASOK administration and prime minister Costas Simitis had falsified Greece's macroeconomic statistics, on the basis of which the European institutions accepted Greece to join the Eurozone. PASOK contested the accusations and claimed that 2006 Eurostat changes to the system of defense expenditure calculation [6] legitimized the practices of the Costas Simitis government. New Democracy responded that the defense expenditures covered by those changes constituted only a small part of much more substantial expenditures that were fraudulently concealed by the previous PASOK government. Whether Simitis's government conducted large-scale falsification of Greek fiscal data continues to be a hotly contested issue between the two political parties.

Costas Simitis was also embroiled in a dispute with the Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church, Christodoulos. A major clash between church and state errupted in 2000, when the Greek government sought to remove the "Religion" field from the national ID cards carried by Greek citizens, after a decision of the Greek commision for the Protection of Citizen's Private Data. Christodoulos opposed the decision, claiming that it had been "put forward by neo-intellectuals who want to attack us like rabid dogs and tear at our flesh". [7] He organised two demonstrations in Athens and Thessaloniki, alongside a majority of bishops of the Church of Greece. The attitude of Simitis arose few supporters within his party, further fewer amond other oppposition parties. The then-opposition leader signed a petition, organized by Church of Greece, calling for a referendum on the matter. However, the inclusion of religious beliefs on ID cards, even on a voluntary basis, as the Church had asked, was subsequently deemed unconstitutional by Greek courts and the issue has been sidelined.

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

[edit] Works

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

[edit] Politic Works

  • «Structural Opposition», Athens 1979
  • «Politics, Covernment and Law», Athens 1981
  • «Politics of Financial stabilization», N. Garganas, T. Thomopoulos, Costa Simitis, G. Spraos, introduction-preface: Costas Simitis, Athens 1989, Gnosi Publications
  • «Populism and Politics», N. Mouzelis, T. Lipovach, M. Spourdalakis, introduction CSostas Simitis, Athens 1989, Gnosi Publications
  • «Developement and modernisation of the Greek Society», Athens 1989, Gnosi Publications
  • «Views on the politic strategy of PASOK», Athens, 1990
  • «Propositions for another politics», Athens 1992, Gnosi Publications
  • «Nationalist Populism or national strategy;», Athens 1992, Gnosi Publications
  • «Let's dare united», Athens 1994
  • «For a strong society and a strong Greece», Athens 1995, Plethron Publications
  • «For a financialy strong and socialy fair Greece», Athens 2002, Kastanioti Publications
  • «For a strong in Europe and in the world Greece», Athens 2002, Kastanioti Publications
  • «For a strong, modern and democratic Greece», Athens 2002, Kastanioti Publications
  • On 2005 he published his book Politics for a Creative Greece 1996-2004 ("Πολιτική για μια Δημιουργική Ελλάδα 1996-2004" in Greek) where he presented in great extend his work during his chairmanship. Polis Publications

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

Preceded by:
Minister for Agriculture
Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
Minister for Economy
Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
George Andreas Papandreou
Minister for National Education and Religious Affairs
Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
Minister for Industry, Energy, Research and Technology
Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
Andreas Papandreou
President of PASOK
Succeeded by:
George Andreas Papandreou
Preceded by:
Andreas Papandreou
Prime Minister of Greece
Succeeded by:
Costas Caramanlis
bg:Костас Симитис

de:Konstantinos Simitis el:Κωνσταντίνος Σημίτης es:Costas Simitis fr:Costas Simitis lv:Kostass Simitiss lt:Kostas Simitis pt:Kostas Simitis fi:Kostas Simitis zh:科斯塔斯·西米蒂斯

Costas Simitis

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