ATHENS – Karolos Papoulias, a former president of Greece has died at the age of 92, Greece’s state news agency ANA reports.
Papoulias, a longtime socialist lawmaker and minister, was close to Andreas Papandreou, the founder of the Socialist PASOK party, and an opponent of Papandreou’s successor, the moderate modernizer Costas Simitis.
This opposition prompted conservative Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, who succeeded Simitis in 2004, to propose Papoulias for the largely ceremonial position of president in early 2005.
Papoulias was re-elected to a second term in February 2010, a term marked by Greece’s financial crisis. Papoulias had little power to shape policy, but 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 controversy.
Karolos Papoulias was born on June 4, 1929, in a village near the city of Ioannina, in northwestern Greece, the son of an army officer who retired as a Major-General. He owed his rather unusual name for a Greek to his godfather, a general and close friend of his father’s, who was an admirer of the Austrian Marxist politician Karl Kautsky.
At a very young age, he was involved in the resistance against the German occupation of 1941-44. After the liberation, Papoulias finished secondary school and studied law at the University of Athens. He was also heavily involved in sports, taking part in several track and field events and becoming Greece’s youth champion in the pole vault. He was also a member of the Greek national volleyball team. Later in life, he served as President of Athens-based Ethnikos Athletic Club for 25 years.
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.
In 1963, Papoulias settled in West Germany and in 1967, when a military junta seized power in Greece, he founded a resistance organization. It was during the 1967-74 period that he met and became close to Andreas Papandreou.
Returning to Greece in 1974, Papoulias was a founder member of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement and was elected to the Greek Parliament from 1977 to 2004. He was a member of all Papandreou governments, primarily in foreign affairs roles.
Papoulias was well-known for his close relations with Arab leaders, including PLO head Yasser Arafat and Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi, and, in general, was cool to Western policies. As a lawmaker, he protested vigorously against NATO intervention in Kosovo in 1999 and voiced support for Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic; as president, his first official trip was to Libya. One of his few official trips abroad was to attend the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi as a guest of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Papoulias is survived by his wife, Maria, and three adult daughters.