Greek former deputy prime minister Theodoros Pangalos dies aged 84

Former Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos has died at age 84 (Petros Giannakouris/AP/PA)
Former Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos has died at age 84 (Petros Giannakouris/AP/PA)

Theodoros Pangalos, a former Greek deputy prime minister and foreign minister known for his undiplomatic outbursts, has died aged 84.

Mr Pangalos’s family said on Twitter that he died on Wednesday “peacefully at home, surrounded by his family and close associates”.

Caretaker Prime Minister Ioannis Sarmas’s office expressed condolences, as did other leading Greek politicians. A statement from Mr Sarmas’s office praised the “dynamic and decisive” former minister who stood out for his “sharp and substantial intellect”.

Born on Aug, 17, 1938, Mr Pangalos was the grandson of a former Greek military dictator. He studied law in Athens and economics in Paris, was involved in left-wing politics and actively opposed the new military regime of 1967-1974.

He became a senior official in the Socialist Pasok party, founded by Andreas Papandreou, that dominated the political scene in most of the 1980s and 1990s, but inherited the country’s financial crisis in 2009.

It was during the early stages of the crisis, amid deep income cuts, soaring unemployment and furious anti-austerity protests, that Mr Pangalos uttered the phrase for which he will perhaps be most remembered, and has been widely reviled.

“The answer to the opprobrium the country’s politicians face from people asking ‘how did you squander the money?’ is this: ‘We gave you public sector jobs. We all ate from the trough’,” Mr Pangalos said in parliament in 2010.

“It was all in the framework of a relationship of political clientelism, corruption, bribery and debasement of the very meaning of politics,” he added.

At the time, he was deputy prime minister in the Socialist government of George Papandreou — Andreas’s son — and his comments were condemned as insensitive.

Mr Pangalos went on to write a book called We All Ate From The Trough, but never held public office after 2012.

He had a long history of unguarded remarks, having managed, as foreign minister in the 1990s, to offend Germany — which he compared to a “giant with a child’s brain” — and Turkey, after he referred to Turks as “thieves and rapists”.

Apart from the Foreign Ministry, Mr Pangalos held a succession of government posts, including the culture portfolio, under Andreas Papandreou and in other Pasok governments.

Centre-right former Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who is expected to win a general election on June 25, praised Mr Pangalos on Wednesday for his “intelligence, cosmopolitanism, humour and courage,” and extolled his commitment to Greece’s place in the European Union as well as his contribution to Cyprus’ EU accession.

Mr Pangalos is survived by his five children.