Former prime minister of Greece George Papandreou delivered the Ninth Annual Emile Noël Lecture on “The State of the European Union,” an event sponsored by the Jean Monnet Center for International and Regional Economic Law & Justice on April 15, Papandreou, who serves as president of Socialist International, spoke with Joseph Weiler, University Professor and director of the Jean Monnet Center,  about the Euro crisis and the winding path through revolution and national upheaval that led to Papandreou’s turbulent, pivotal presidency.

Styled as an informal conversation, the talk began with Papandreou’s reflections on his upbringing. The scion of a Greek political dynasty, Papandreou grew up watching his grandfather serve twice as prime minister before being ousted and imprisoned in the 1987 military coup d’état that temporarily ended democracy in Greece. He spoke of hiding his father from the authorities on the roof of their family home as one of the defining moments of his childhood, and discussed his years spent in exile.

“I had decided not to go into politics,” said Papandreou, to an audience that broke out into appreciative laughter.

Papandreou recounted his December 2009 decision to publically restate Greece’s deficit values, noting his shock at learning how deeply his predecessors had misstated the numbers. “I wanted to show the E.U. that Greece was ready to change,” he said, repeating the sentiment throughout the discussion.  He remarked on his sometimes-strained working relationship with other E.U. heads of state, especially German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He also spoke about the “profound negative effect” that the media’s portrayal of Greece had on popular sentiment towards both reform and the European project.

In addition, Papandreou discussed the ongoing reform of E.U. institutions, focusing on the European Central Bank as a stabilizing force in the ongoing banking crisis and commenting on his hope for continued institutional reform on the continent. Asked about his future political plans, Papandreou smiled and said, “I’m taking my vacation now.”

Posted on April 30, 2013