Kostas Karamanlis

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This article is about the Prime Minister whose term began in 2004 and ended in 2009. For his uncle, a former Prime Minister and later President who lived from 1907 to 1998, see Konstantinos Karamanlis.
Kostas Karamanlis
Κωνσταντίνος Καραμανλής
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Prime Minister of Greece
In office
10 March 2004 – 6 October 2009
President Konstantinos Stephanopoulos
Karolos Papoulias
Preceded by Costas Simitis
Succeeded by George Papandreou
Minister for Culture
In office
10 March 2004 – 15 February 2006
Preceded by Evangelos Venizelos
Succeeded by Georgios Voulgarakis
Leader of New Democracy
In office
21 March 1997 – 30 November 2009
Preceded by Miltiadis Evert
Succeeded by Antonis Samaras
Leader of the Opposition
In office
21 March 1997 – 10 March 2004
Preceded by Miltiadis Evert
Succeeded by George Papandreou
Personal details
Born Konstantinos Karamanlis
(1956-09-14) 14 September 1956 (age 58)
Athens, Greece
Political party New Democracy
Spouse(s) Natasa Pazaïti (1998–present)
Children Alexandros
Aliki
Alma mater University of Athens
Tufts University
Religion Greek Orthodoxy

Konstantinos Alexandrou Karamanlis, commonly known as Kostas Karamanlis (Greek: Κωνσταντίνος Αλεξάνδρου (Κώστας) Καραμανλής, pronounced [konstanˈdinos alekˈsanðru ˈkostas karamanˈlis]; born 14 September 1956), was Prime Minister of Greece from 2004 to 2009. He was also president of the right-conservative New Democracy party, founded by his uncle Konstantinos Karamanlis.

Karamanlis served as Prime Minister for two consecutive terms, winning the 7 March 2004 parliamentary elections and the 16 September 2007 parliamentary elections. However, he asked for mid-term general elections to be held on 4 October 2009. The main reason for the mid-term election was the narrow majority his party enjoyed in Parliament that could not guarantee a stable government needed to handle the economic crisis and its repercussions. On 5 October 2009, Karamanlis conceded defeat in the Greek legislative election and resigned as president of the New Democracy party after 12 years as its leader, after an election victory for the opposition PASOK.[1]

Political career[edit]

Kostas Karamanlis, a nephew of former Greek President Konstantinos Karamanlis, was born in Athens and studied at University of Athens Law School and at the private Deree College, continuing with postgraduate studies in the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in the United States, where he gained a master's degree and a doctorate in political sciences, international relations and diplomatic history.[citation needed]

Karamanlis served in New Democracy's organisational and ideological sectors from 1974 to 1979 and from 1984 to 1989. He is the author of a book, Eleftherios Venizelos and Foreign Relations of Greece, 1928–32, on the Greek politician Eleftherios Venizelos. He has also edited and prefaced various historical publications.

Karamanlis was elected a New Democracy deputy for Thessaloniki in 1989, but in 2004 he was elected for Larissa. He was elected party leader in 1997 following New Democracy's defeat in the 1996 election. He defeated the ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) at the 2004 elections.

He served as Vice President of the European People's Party (EPP) between 1999 and 2006.

Karamanlis was the first Greek Prime Minister to be born after World War II. He married Natasa Pazaïti in 1998; they have two children (a boy and a girl, twins), born on 13 June 2003.

Prime Minister[edit]

Aided by the unpopularity of the incumbent PASOK government led by Costas Simitis (a party that had been in power between 1981—1989 and from 1993—2004) ND defeated the Socialists' George Andreas Papandreou in 2004. Karamanlis stated that the priorities of his government were education, economic policy, agricultural policy, lowering the high level of unemployment (standing at 11.2%) and a more transparent and effective state administration. Economic policy centered on tax cuts, investment incentives and market deregulation. While early problems included a large public debt (about 112% of GDP) and a budget deficit (5.3% of the GDP) in excess of Eurozone stability rules, Karamanlis's government halved the budget deficit to 2.6% by 2006.

Another key issue was the 2004 Summer Olympics scheduled to be held in Athens in the first year of his government: several key buildings were unfinished at the time of the election, the security budget had increased to €970 million and authorities announced that a roof would no longer be constructed over the main swimming venue. The main Olympic Stadium, the designated facility for the opening and closing ceremonies, was completed only two months before the games opened, with the sliding over of a futuristic glass roof designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. Other facilities, such as the streetcar line linking the city and the airport were largely unfinished just two months before the games. The subsequent pace of preparation, however, made the rush to finish the Athens venues one of the tightest in Olympics history and everything was finished just on time for the Opening Ceremony. At the end, the Games were held exactly as planned and were globally hailed as a spectacular success. Nonetheless and as a result of the delays, large cost overruns resulted in a deficit in the national accounts above EU stipulations.[2] The ND government and the previous administration of Costas Simitis criticized each other for the messy preparations. PASOK criticized the New Democracy government for using the Olympics as a pretext to renege on promises. Under the weight of the huge costs (estimated at €7bn), the deficit shot up to 5.3%. Karamanlis declared that "Social policy was done with borrowed cash, military spending did not show up on the budget, debts were created in secret".[3]

Financial audit of 2004[edit]

Kostas Karamanlis giving a speech in Warsaw in 2009
José Manuel Barroso and Kostas Karamanlis in Dublin in 2004

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.

A worse blow came in May 2004, when the European Commission harshly accused Greece of "imprudent" and "sloppy" fiscal policies,[4] pointing out that since Greek economic growth had been an annual 4% in 2000–2003, a declining fiscal position could only be the result of government mismanagement, including concerns by the EU regarding the 103% public debt to GDP ratio which Karamanlis inherited from the previous PASOK regime. With this report, the Commission effectively called into question the quality of Greek economic data, as the Eurostat had done in March.

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[5] 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.

Rising unemployment and the threat of inflation undermined Karamanlis' promises to kick-start the economy and sparked strikes,[6][7][8][9] especially one in 2006 by rubbish collectors,[10] causing severe disruption in the economy – particularly the one in July 2005 at the height of the tourist season.

In early 2006, it was revealed that the cellular phone of Costas Karamanlis, as well as those of several other members of the government and officials of the armed forces, had been tapped for several months during and after the 2004 Athens Olympics.[11] The investigation into this matter by the Greek organization for communications privacy was closed with the argument that if this investigation would carry on, the information revealed would be dangerous for the national security of Greece.

The government has undertaken a 210 million euro program to bolster broadband internet connectivity in provincial Greece, which was approved by the European Commission in 2006 with the commendation that it constituted "the most ambitious broadband development program that any EU member has ever undertaken".

In matters of social policy, Karamanlis's government has followed a largely liberal policy. In the spring of 2006, the Ministry of Education repealed a law continuously in effect from 1936 (including 20 years of socialist rule), which required approval by the local Orthodox Christian Metropolitan for the building of non-Orthodox houses of worship.

At the outset of the year, prime minister Karamanlis announced the initiative of his government for a new amendment to the Constitution. He stated that one of the central issues of this amendment will be the legalisation of private universities in Greece, operating on a non-profit basis. Greece has for years experienced a mass exodus of "educational immigrants" to other countries' Higher Education institutions, where they move to study; this creates a chronic problem for Greece, in terms of loss of capital as well as human resources, since many of those students opt to seek employment in the countries they studied, after getting their degrees (it is characteristic Greece is by far the leading country in the world in terms of students abroad as a percentage of the general population, with 5250 students per million, compared to second Malaysia's 1780 students per million inhabitants). Proponents of non-state owned Universities claim that the State's constitutionally mandated monopoly on Higher Education is responsible for these problems.

Attempted changes in Greek higher education have encountered fierce opposition from the other parties, as well as from the majority of the academic community, both professors and students. An attempt to pass several changes concerning the operation of Greek universities resulted in large-scale demonstrations, mounting to tens of thousands protesters, and, finally, the closure of most institutions by protesting students in the summer of 2006. The semester's exam period was lost and postponed for the fall, while the government shelved the changes and claimed that no bill would be put to a parliamentary vote before a more extensive dialogue has been held with students. However, without any further dialogue, the legislation passed in 2007.

2007 re-election[edit]

Kostas Karamanlis with Angela Merkel in 2006

In the 2007 general election, Karamanlis was re-elected with a diminished majority, following the 2007 Greek forest fires that ravaged much of western Peloponese and southern Euboea. He pledged to continue with his reform and privatization programme as well as form a new Cabinet.

On 19 September. 2007, he presented a new cabinet.[12]

2009 elections[edit]

In the 2009 general election, Karamanlis and New Democracy were voted out of the government. He stepped down on 30 November after elections within the New Democracy party for the election of new party leader.

Criticism[edit]

The prime minister came under criticism during the wild fires of 2007.[13] With hundreds of thousands of acres burning and many deaths, the government has faced growing scrutiny for its response to the fires. In the days following the fires and the seeming lack of a substantial fire-fighting response adequate to stop the blazes, the government suggested the process was not natural and the work of arsonists.

A group of Pakistani men has claimed that they were abducted by Greek and British intelligence agents in the wake of the 7 July 2005 London bombings. The governments of Greece, Pakistan and Britain have denied accusations that they were involved in the alleged detention of 28 Pakistanis for several days in Athens and Ioannina after the 7 July bombings in London. The prosecutor assigned to the case says he has no evidence of who committed the abductions, but the main opposition party PASOK has called for the resignation of Greek public order minister Georgios Voulgarakis. An unnamed human rights group (possibly biased) also called for the resignation of the Prime Minister, Kostas Karamanlis over the allegations. [1] [2] [3] [4]

A number of serious scandals involving Karamanlis' closest ministers and members of his party surfaced during his term, damaging his public image severely. Karamanlis was largely elected in 2004 due to his plea to "clear" public life from corruption.

Another criticism against Karamanlis and his cabinet involved the 2008 riots, which started after the killing of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos by a police officer; police said Grigoropoulos was with a company of 4 teenagers who used hard language to a few policemen by a car. One officer has been charged, and Reuters noted that "Greece has a tradition of violence at student rallies and fire bomb attacks by anarchist groups." Amnesty International called for a speedy investigation. The death of Grigoropoulos resulted in large demonstrations and widespread riots in major Greek and foreign cities.

After he left office, many in Greece continued to blame the New Democracy governments of Karamanlis for economic difficulties,[14] and both financial markets and Greece's EU partners chastised the country for vastly underestimated budget deficits under his watch .[15]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Miltiadis Evert
Leader of New Democracy
1997–2009
Succeeded by
Antonis Samaras
Political offices
Preceded by
Costas Simitis
Prime Minister of Greece
2004–2009
Succeeded by
George Papandreou
Preceded by
Evangelos Venizelos
Minister for Culture
2004–2006
Succeeded by
Georgios Voulgarakis