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Costas Simitis

Costas Simitis

Konstantinos Georgiou Simitis (born June 23, 1936), has been Prime Minister of Greece since January 22, 1996, and is leader of the PASOK party. On January 7, 2004, he announced his resignation as PASOK leader. He will step down as Prime Minister after the March 7, 2004 elections.

Simitis was born in Piraeus and studied Law in Germany and economics at the London School of Economics. 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 Defence, an organization opposed to the Greek military regime.

Simitis escaped abroad in order to avoid being jailed and became a member of the Pan-Hellenic Struggle Movement (PAK), while he became a university lecturer in Germany. He returned to Athens in 1974 and was one of the co-founders of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, led by Andreas Papandreou. In 1977 he took up a lecturer's post at the Pantion University.

Although Simitis was not a candidate for the Greek Parliament in the 1981 elections, he was nevertheless appointed Minister of Agriculture in the first PASOK government of that year. Immediately afterwards he became Minister of National Economy, 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 the Prime Minister.

In 1996 on the resignation of Papandreou through ill-health Simitis was elected leader of PASOK, defeating left-wing candidates on a policy of support for the European Union. In 2000 he narrowly won national elections, gaining a mandate in his own right. Although he is respected throughout Europe, in Greece Simitis is regarded by many as a rather dull technocrat, lacking the charisma of Papandreou.

Simitis's greatest achievement was overcoming nationalist opposition and sever economic difficulties to get Greece into the Euro zone, which has brought huge benefits to the Greek economy. PASOK traditionalists dislike his move away from orthodox socialism, and also his relative moderation on nationalist issues such as Cyprus and Macedonia.

On January 7 2004 Simitis announced his resignation and on January 8 he called elections for the position of party president to be held on February 8. He will step down as Prime Minister after the March 7 national elections. It is expected that he will be succeeded as PASOK leader by George Papandreou, the only expected nominee for the PASOK presidency.

Simitis is married to Daphne Arcadiou and has two daughters.

See also