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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-04-23

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


Athens, Greece, 23/04/1998 (ANA)


  • Elder statesman Constantine Karamanlis dies at 91
  • Karamanlis biography
  • Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Karamanlis' death


Elder statesman Constantine Karamanlis dies at 91

Elderly former Greek President of the Republic Constantine Karamanlis, the statesman who guided Greece into European Community membership, died today at 01.40 of natural causes. He was 91.

Karamanlis, who was hospitalised two weeks ago with a lung infection, suffered a sudden relapse and died of a heart attack without recovering consciousness.

The elder statesman, whose political career spanned five decades, founded the New Democracy party following his triumphant return to Greece from self- imposed exile in Paris in the wake of the collapse of a seven-year military dictatorship in July 1974.

Karamanlis, who served as his country's prime minister four times and was twice head of state, ordered a referendum in December 1974 in which 70 percent of the electorate voted for the abolition of the monarchy and the setting up of a presidential republic in its stead.

Karamanlis biography

Eminent Greek statesman Constantine Karamanlis was born in 1907 in Proti (formerly Kiupkoi) near Serres, northern Greece, the first of four sons and three daughters of George, a teacher and later tobacco grower, and Fotini, nee Dologlou.

He came to Athens in 1923, and graduated from the Athens University Law School in 1929. He enlisted in the 30th Infantry Regiment in Serres in 1930, but was discharged four months later due to a hearing impediment.

Karamanlis was elected to parliament for the first time in 1935 as an MP for the Peoples Party from the Serres region, and was re-elected in 1936, but after the August 4 dictatorship was imposed he returned to Serres and started practicing law.

In 1941, the year of the Nazi occupation of Greece, he settled in Athens and became a member of the Athens Bar Association, and a year later he, together with Constantine Tsatsos, Xenophon Zolotas and George Mavros formed an intellectual group concered over the future of the country. The group dissolved three years later.

In 1944, Karamanlis secretly left occupied Greece and reached Cairo via Turkey and Syria and from there to Alexandria (October 1944). Upon arrival he learned tha tAthens had been liberated, and returned to Greece.

In 1946 he was elected again to Parliament as an MP of the United Nationalist Front (formerly People's Party) from Serres. The same year he went to the U.S. and underwent successful surgery for his ear problem and, while there, was appointed a member of the financial mission led by Sophocles Venizelos applying for U.S. aid for the restoration of damages suffered by Greece during the war. Under the aid package, the U.S. government granted Greece 100 Liberty tankers, which served as the basis for the reconstruction of the Greek Merchant Fleet.

Upon his return to Greece in November that year, he was appointed to a government post for the first time, becoming Minister of labour in the Tsaldaris government. He retained the post until the January 1947 reshuffle after Dimitrios Maximos took over as Prime Minister.

In May 1948 he became Minister of Transportation in the Sofoulis government, and took over the Social Security Ministry in November that year, where he stayed for two years.

In the 1950 elections, he was re-elected to Parliament from Serres with the People's Party, and in September that year became briefly Minister of Defence in the Venizelos government.

In 1951 Karamanlis joined the Greek Rally party newly-established by Alexander Papagos, and was elected to the Parliament on that party's ticket that year and re-elected in 1952, both times as MP for Serres.

In July 1952 he married Amalia Kanellopoulou, nice of Panayotis Kanellopoulos, whom he divorced in 1970. That same month he was appointed to the Ministry of Public Works, where he rmained until 1955, also taking over the Ministry of Transportation in December 1954.

In October 1955, Karamanlis became Prime Minister for the first time, having been given the mandate to form a government by King Paul after Papagos' death.

On January 4, 1956, Karamanlis established the national Radical Union (ERE) comprising most of the Greek Rally MPs and eminent members of the centre parties, including Constantine Tsatsos and Evangelos Averof. ERE won the general elections a month later and Karamanlis formed his second government, in which he also held the National Defence portfolio.

In 1958, after 15 ERE MPs broke away, the government lost its absolute majority in Parliament and new elections took place in May, when Karamanlis became Prime Minister of his third consecutive government. In February the next year, Karamanlis' talks with his Turkish counterpart in Zurich and the quadripartite talks in London between Greece, Cyprus, Brtain and the Turkish Cypriot community resulted in the signing of the Zurich and London Treaties, respectively, declaring Cyprus a unified and independent republic. In September 1959, talks began for Greece's accession to the EEC, and the accession treaty was signed two years later, becoming effective on November 1, 1962.

Karamanlis remained Prime Minister until 1963, as his ERE party won the next general elections in 1961.

He resigned in June 1963 after a dispute with the Palace, opposition accusations over the 1961 electoral result, and the explosive situation that had been created after the killing of left-wing EDA party MP Grigoris Lambrakis in Thessaloniki by supporters of the extreme-right.

Karamanlis resigned as the head of ERE after the party failed to carry the November 1963 elections, and a month later went into self-exile in Paris, where he remained for 11 years, during which time he was not actively involved in politics.

Karamanlis triumphantly returned to Greece on the night of July 23, 1974, after the toppling of the 7-year colonels' dictatorship in the country.

He formed a National Unity government the next day, and established the New Democracy party in September in view of elections in November, which his party carried with 54% of the vote and in which he was elected MP for the Athens A' district. He also legalised the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) in September, while a December referendum abolished the monarchy and established a presidential democracy.

ND also carried the November 1977 general elections with 41% and Karamanlis was elected in the Athens A' district

He remained Prime Minister until May 1980, when he resigned after Parliament elected him President of the Republic in the third round of voting and he was succeeded by George Rallis as ND leader and Premier.

He remained in the Presidency until 1985, when he was succeeded by Supreme Court judge Christos Sargzetakis, and was re-elected to the Presidency in 1990. At the expiry of his term in 1995, Karamanlis retired from public affairs and was succeeded by Costis Stephanopoulos in the Presidency.

Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Karamanlis' death

In a statement prime minister Costas Simitis said the late statesman "left his seal indelible in Greece in the last five decades, and played a leading role in the bloodless transition from dictatorship to democracy by restoring the democratic institutions and establishing equality before law for all Greeks."

Simitis said that "Karamanlis' tireless efforts in guiding Greece to the European Union, placed the country in the right position it deserved within the family of the European states."

"Karamanlis broke Greece's international isolation resulting from the seven- year dictatorship and broadened its international horizons. He substantially contributed in normalising Greece's relations with its Balkan neighbours consolidating a climate of peace, friendship, stability and cooperation in the wider region."

"For a decade," Simitis went on, "Karamanlis, as a president of the republic attached particular importance both in the country's international relations and domestic politics."

"The Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), the government and I personally pay our utmost hommage to him, the politician who dominated the country's post-war history".


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