ATHENS – He is perhaps Greece’s most outspoken politician, and as he readies to retire, veteran PASOK Socialist Theodoros Pangalos still isn’t mincing his words, nor eating them, and said he’s standing by his statement that all Greeks are responsible for the country’s economic crisis, with the infamous statement being, “We all ate together,” because he believes tax evasion and corruption are still going unpunished. That’s despite a recent crackdown which led to the arrests of more than 185 alleged tax cheats, but no prosecutions, and the arrest of former Defense Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos on money-laundering charges.
While Greeks furious over austerity measures are blaming political leaders for pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions, cuts in unemployment benefits and the planned firing of 150,000 state workers, Panagalos intimated that those who benefited from being hired as political favors in return for votes have had it sweet for generations, collecting public paychecks without doing much work, and enjoying other perks and privileges as well.
“Every citizen is responsible in a democracy,” Pangalos said in an interview on SKAI TV. He is not running in the May 6 elections to elect a new Prime Minister to replace a government that was formed five months ago when then Prime Minister George Papandreou, who recently stepped aside as PASOK’s leader in favor of former Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, resigned in the face of incessant protests, riots and strikes against austerity measures demanded by the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB), who are loaning Greece $325 billion in two bailouts to prop up the country’s failed economy.
“(My remarks) were a reference to political favors, tax dodging and all the stuff that is gradually being revealed now,” he said.
The outspoken 74-year-old politician sparked controversy in 2010, a few months after Greece’s first bailout package, after he claimed on TV that everyone, not just politicians, bore the responsibility for the squandering of public money.
“We all ate together,” Pangalos said at the time. First elected as a PASOK MP in 1981, Pangalos explained his decision not to be a candidate in the Parliamentary elections saying he was too old to serve another tenure. “In four years I will be 78. I need to retire at some point,” he said.
Pangalos is famous for undiplomatic outbursts. He referred to Germany as a giant with a child’s brain. Another time he suggested that the then French president was essentially belly-dancing in front of the Turks to get their business. Among his other quotes that have incited irritation amongst fellow politicians and chuckling from others who know his propensity to say anything are:
- “Papandreou is known for being a mild-mannered sort, so any kind of irritability is worth noting.”
- “By speculating on Greek bonds at the expense of your friend and partner, by allowing credit institutions of the country (Germany) to participate in this deplorable game, some people are making money.”
- “Now that the Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) had been created, the Macedonians should be allowed to use whatever name they wished. Indeed, Greece should be honored by Macedonia wanting to use the name.”