Enraged that then-Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou in 2011 said he would call a referendum and let Greeks decide whether to accept harsh terms of a second international bailout – which could have pushed Greece out of the Eurozone – then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy said his colleague was “f–king psycho!” according to a book by former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
The outburst came as European Union leaders were exasperated that Papandreou, under rising protests and riots over tough austerity measures he was imposing on the orders of the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB), was going to let Greeks decide their own fate even though if they rejected the terms of a second bailout it would have forced Greece to abandon the euro.
That, said Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, could have brought down the 17-member Eurozone and Sarkozy was furious that Papandreou put the EU in a predicament. In his book The Dilemma, Zapatero, who served from 2004-11, said the feisty former French leader put his leg on a chair during a meeting of EU leaders and almost jumped on a table as he continued a tirade against Papandreou, repeatedly calling him an “a–hole.”
At the time in late 2011, it was also reported that Sarkozy told U.S. President Barack Obama that Papandreou was undermining the Eurozone. “Crazy Papandreou comes up with his referendum,” Sarkozy allegedly told Obama. “It’s because he is depressed, so there’s no point giving him a hard time about it. He’s already on his knees. Knockout.”
As it turned out, Sarkozy was right about Papandreou’s fate as the Greek leader withdrew the call for the referendum but, politically beaten, resigned in November 2011 in favor of a temporary coalition government before New Democracy Conservative leader Antonis Samaras became Premier in June 2012 in a second election after a first failed to give him enough of the vote to win outright.