In profile: George Papandreou

Looking back at the fallen Greek Prime Minister…


Greeks protest austerity cuts under George Papandreou © by Piazza del Popolo


Sworn into office in the same wave of adulation that had other left wing politicians such as Tony Blair and Barack Obama elected into office throughout the decade before, George A. Papandreou was doomed to be the Greek Prime Minister that allowed civil unrest and economic discord to replace democracy and humus as the chief exports of his country.

Yet as much as his credibility has been undermined by the abysmal state of the Greek economy, Mr. Papandreou cannot be blamed entirely for the economic hardship that has befallen the Hellenic Republic. Already promising to revive the ailing economy with a three billion euro stimulus package and transform Greece in order to stem the tide of the ever present diaspora, even the ultimately cursed premier recognized that something needed to be done.

Only moving to Greece in only 1974 after the fall of the military dictatorship that had ruled the country since the previous decade, any hope that the son and grandson of two former prime ministers would engage with anything else but the family business would disappear the year after when he began to take part in the committee level politics of the PASOKE.

But any hope that Europe’s equivalent to Barack Obama might use his cosmopolitan  background to come up with outside of the box solutions, to the already serious financial crisis, disappeared when Papandreou presided over his countries considerable debt being downgraded to “Junk” by the American credit agency Standard & Poor’s.

Coverage of Greece’s “acute financial crisis” in the media could not have helped Papandreou, but at least the downgrade got him and his country a little bit of attention. With few natural resources to speak of and a moderately sized military of conscripts that takes up just 4 percent of their GDP, it has largely been invisible in terms of geopolitics in the eyes of the world’s media.

Ten years earlier and he probably could have pulled a Tony Blair and charmed the public and the media alike, but Jeffery, as the detractors of the American educated premier from the Greek opposition call him, was just not equipped for the mob demands of the contemporary media landscape and how they have affected politics.

Perhaps this was our fault, but with the recent announcement of a transitional government and subsequently his replacement, not to mention the rather tumultuous exit of Silvio Berlusconi across the Aegean, the fact of the matter is that how the international community treated George Papandreou is no longer relevant. Even if it was ultimately wrong.


Daniel Zuidijk