Costas Simitis was born in Athens in 1936. He studied law in Germany and economics in Great Britain. As a lawyer, he was involved in activities against the Greek junta, avoided arrest by fleeing the country in the late sixties, going to Germany to teach law. With Andreas Papandreou he was a founding member of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK). Upon returning to Greece in the seventies Simitis joined the government as a member of parliament from Piraeus and served in a number of ministerial posts, notably Minister of Industry and Commerce. In 1996 he succeeded Premier Andreas Papandreou, who resigned due to ill health. After Papandreou's death in June, Simitis was elected party leader, moving PASOK toward the center and undertaking austerity measures that paved the way for Greece's adoption of the euro in January 2001. In November of 1999 Simitis hosted a visit by US President Bill Clinton. The visit is marred by demonstrations against the bombing of Serbia and Clinton is forced to cut the trip short. Simitis' government was responsible for the preparations for the 2004 Olympics though several months before the games he steps down as leader due to falling popularity and is replaced by George Papandreou, son of the founder of PASOK.

Return to History of Greece: Biographies