The late former President of Greece, Karolos Papoulias. (Photo by Eurokinissi)
ATHENS – Former President Karolos Papoulias, a long time veteran of the former PASOK Socialists who was able to gain the support of rivals to be appointed to Greece’s top mostly symbolic position has died at 92, said the state-run Athens-Macedonia News Agency (ANMA.)
He was close to PASOK founder Andreas Papandreou but an opponent of Papandreou’s successor Costas Simitis, which prompted then-Prime Minister and rival New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis to propose Papoulias as President in 2005.
Papoulias was re-elected to a second term in February 2010 as Greece was embroiled in what would turn into an eight-year economic and austerity crisis but was able to steer clear of partisan politics although he had little real power.
The British newspaper The Independent noted that “He was also temperamentally adverse to upstaging the successive governments he swore into office — Conservative, Socialist, a conservative-socialist coalition and, in the final month of his term, the leftist SYRIZA-led government. His 10-year tenure was mostly free of controvers”.
He had held various ministerial appointments in his long political career, mainly in the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry. He also served as a Member of Parliament for his home region of Ioannina for 26 years.
“His participation in the National Resistance and his efforts against the Junta defined his journey, reflecting his constant commitment to the ideals of freedom and justice that he consistently defended,” stated current president Katerina Sakellaropoulou, reported Kathimerini.
She added that Papoulias “served as President of the Hellenic Republic for two consecutive terms and honored with his conduct and ethos this highest state institution, vigorously defending social cohesion and national unity.”
He was the son of an army officer who retired as a Major-General and his unusual name for a Greek man came from his godfather, a General and close friend of his father’s, an admirer of the Austrian Marxist politician Karl Kautsky.
Papoulias took part in the resistance against the German occupation from 1941-44 and after the liberation he studied law at the University of Athens and was a star athlete, becoming Greece’s youth champion in the pole vault and a member of the national volleyball team.
Papoulias finished his law studies with a graduate degree from the University of Milan and a doctorate in private international law from the University of Cologne, the British paper also noted.
In 1963, Papoulias settled in West Germany and in 1967, when a repressive military junta seized power in Greece, he founded a resistance organization and during that time met and became close to Papandreou, a firebrand politician.
Returning to Greece in 1974, Papoulias was a founder member of PASOK and served in Parliament from 1977-2004 and was also a member of all Papandreou governments, mostly in foreign affairs.
He was a member of all Papandreou governments, primarily in foreign affairs roles. He is survived by his wife, Maria, and three adult daughters.
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