Konstantinos Mitsotakis (Chalepa, Chania, 18 October 1918 – Athens, 29 May 2017) was a Greek politician. He was President of the New Democracy (1 September 1984 – 3 November 1993) and Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic (11 April 1990 – 13 October 1993).
Coming from a family with a political tradition, he was involved in politics from an early age and was elected as a member of the Chania Parliament as early as the 1946 elections. He was a founding member of the Union of the Centre, taking part in the so-called “Anendotos Struggle” of 1961-63 against the 1961 government of Constantine Karamanlis, which led the centrist party to power after a long period of opposition, as well as in the crisis that followed in July 1965, when, in opposition to Prime Minister George Papandreou, he left the government together with other members, being described as “defectors” and “traitors” of the Centre Union, forming the so-called “Governments of the Defectors” (those of Athanasiadis-Nova, Tsirimokos and Stephanopoulos). With the outbreak of the coup of 21 April he was arrested and subsequently went abroad, where he developed anti-dictatorial activity.
Post-independence he created the Neo-Liberal Party which elected two deputies, himself and Pavlos Vardinoyannis, in the 1977 elections. The following year he joined New Democracy and on 1 September 1984 he was elected its leader. He led the party in the 1985 elections, in which he was defeated. After the defeat he resigned and raised the issue of leadership again. He was re-elected president in the subsequent internal party elections. In the two elections of 1989 (June and November) he failed to win self-reliance, but succeeded in those of 8 April 1990, when he formed a government under his presidency. He was defeated in the following elections and resigned from the leadership of the New Democracy Party, and was awarded the title of Honorary Chairman of the party.
He was elected as a Member of Parliament until 2004. Despite the cessation of his parliamentary activities, he continued to make political interventions through the media or through his contacts with political and economic actors. His children are Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Dora Bakoyannis.
He was born in 1918 in the Chalepa district of Chania, in the house where the Chalepa contract was signed, which granted the first rights to the Cretans. He was the second son of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, a lawyer and member of parliament, and Stavroula Plumidakis. On his father”s side, he was the grandson of Kostis Mitsotakis (1845-1898), founder of the Xypolita Party, which was taken over by Eleftherios Venizelos and renamed the Liberal Party, and of Katigos Venizelos, sister of Eleftherios Venizelos, and nephew of Aristomenes Mitsotakis and Sophocles Venizelos. On his mother”s side, he was the grandson of Haralambos Plumidakis, a lawyer, MP and first cousin of Eleftherios Venizelos. From childhood he received a diligent education as there was the library of his father and grandfather in the house and there was a German teacher. At the age of ten he entered the Practical Lyceum of Chania after examinations.
He studied at the Law School of Athens, although he himself wished to study at the Polytechnic with expenses from an endowment that Eleftherios Venizelos had designated for his studies. Shortly before the outbreak of the war he enlisted in the Infantry Reserve Officers” School in Syros. With the outbreak of the WWII he joined the Army, fighting as a Reserve Lieutenant in Macedonia against the German invasion of Greece, staying on the front line for a month and a half. In the retreat he descended across the Pindos, Vardousia, the Thessalian plain and reached Velo in Corinthia
In the summer of 1942 he managed to obtain permission to travel by boat to Crete, stopping at Hydra and Gerakas. During the German occupation, he participated in the Resistance against the occupiers by joining the National Organization of Crete, “a political area that suited him” because “he was not a communist or pro-leftist”. Markos Spanoudakis introduced Mitsotakis to this organization. At the same time, as a lawyer, he defended Greek resistance fighters who had been arrested by the occupation forces at the Military Court of Chania and toured villages in order to recruit new members to the EEC. He played a leading role in the realization of the Therissos and Tromarissa agreements (7 November 1943 Therissos agreement and 15 September 1944 in Tromarissa) between the EEC and EAM, which resulted in the avoidance of civil strife in Crete.He belonged to the Pentadymma intelligence network. He put Allied headquarters envoys such as Stephen Verney in contact with anti-Nazi officers.
For this action he was imprisoned and sentenced twice to death by the Germans: the first time was on 6 February 194, a period of the Cretan resistance struggle and the German reprisals. He was first imprisoned in the old Venetian prison of Firka and then transferred to the prison of Agia. He was released on 25 March 1944. He then developed more intense political activity aimed at encouraging the Germans to defect to the Allied camp and strengthening political support for the EEC. He was finally arrested on 23 October 1944. Because he and other fellow prisoners were planning to escape and were discovered there was a possible possibility that he would be executed. His relatives were mobilized to free him, and eventually, by decision of the General Headquarters Middle East, thirty German prisoners were exchanged for ten Greeks, including Mitsotakis, in the Georgioupolis area on 31 March 1945. After his release he went to Rethymno and then to Heraklion.
For his resistance activities he received medals from the Greek and the British state, and in 1986 he was honoured by the British Parliament. After the German surrender, Mitsotakis served in British intelligence as a liaison with the Greek Military Command.
In the elections of 31 March 1946, he was elected the last member of the Chania Parliament for the Liberal Party and was in favour of an unrestricted democracy. In the summer of 1946 he participated as a witness for the prosecution in the trial of the war criminals of German military officers who had acted in Crete. In 1950 he was elected as the first member of parliament for Chania with the Liberal Party. At the age of 32, in February 1951, he took over the portfolio of Deputy Minister of Finance under the government of Sophocles Venizelos (1 February-27 October 1951), and in the following reshuffle in July of the same year, he took over the Ministries of Transport (4-30 July 1951) and Public Works (30 September-27 October 1951). From 1952 he began to emerge as a contender for the leadership of the Liberal Party. In 1959, as part of the Foreign Leader Program, he was invited by the American Embassy, among other persons who were considered opinion leaders and who were expected to play a leading role in the political life of Greece in the years to come, to spend a few weeks in the USA, where he made contacts and visits and attended seminars in order to become part of a network of US propagandists in Greece.
Mitsotakis and the Kazantzakis issue
In 1955 he defended Nikos Kazantzakis in Parliament when he was persecuted for reasons of religious prejudice. Together with Anastasios Voulodimos and Georgios Tzatzanis, they tabled a question in Parliament about the confiscation of Kazantzakis” books in the province. In a debate that took place on 11 March 1955 in the Parliament, he described Kazantzakis, among other things, as a ”great writer”, a ”true patriot” and a ”true Christian” with ”deep and fervent religious feeling”. Nikolaos Tomadakis reacted to Mitsotakis” intervention and in a letter to the Cretan MP he described it as a product of “political expediency”, which “in any case constitutes either a product of indifference to Christianity or a failure to read Kazantzakis” works”.
Mitsotakis opposes the two former co-leaders of the Liberals, Papandreou and Venizelos, regarding the two leaders” failure to observe the rules of intra-party democracy and their opposition as vice-presidents of the government to the policy of forgetting and appeasing Plastira. The rise of the ERE and Constantine Karamanlis is contributing to the creation of a trend towards unification of the centre ground. Mitsotakis along with Georgios Kartalis approach Georgios Papandreou to propose the merger of the Liberal Party and the Philhellenic Democratic Union. A year before the 1958 election in January 1957, the Liberal MP Stylianos Pistolakis attacks Mitsotakis in an article in which he hints at his illicit enrichment and his role in the establishment of the T.A.E. It was an ”intra-party opposition”. Mitsotakis opposed the electoral law under which the elections had been held, suggesting that decisions be made not by the parliamentary group but by all the candidates in the last election. His reaction caused his removal but this faded as Sophocles Venizelos and Georgios Papandreou had resigned from the leadership of the Liberals. In November 1958 at a Liberal congress he stood for leader receiving 13 votes. On 6 February he and nine other members formed the Group of Ten or New Political Movement.
In 1961 Georgios Papandreou and Sophocles Venizelos, together with many politicians of the broader centrist and Venizelist area, founded the Union of the Centre. At that time, K. Mitsotakis, because of his rivalry with his uncle, led an internal party campaign to give the leadership of the Centre to G. Papandreou.
Later, Konstantinos Mitsotakis was elected as a member of the EP and actively participated in the “Anendotos Agonas” (he co-signed a motion of impeachment against the government of ERE, accusing it of obstructing the debate on the of those responsible for the “electoral coup” to the special court), forming together with George Papandreou and Panos Kokkas, editor of the newspaper Eleftheria, the hard core of the Anendotos front. In a speech to parliament on 14 March 1962, he condemned the dowry given to Princess Sophia on the occasion of her wedding as an obsolete institution and suggested a symbolic gift. On 17 July 1962, he made a statement in Parliament in favour of the legalisation of the then illegal Communist Party of Greece. After the victory of the Centre Union in 1963, he served as Minister of Finance in the Governments of Georgios Papandreou in 196 and 1964. In the 1964 elections he encouraged Andreas Papandreou to participate in them, calculating that he could perhaps act as a counterweight to Sophocles Venizelos. A report by the American Embassy in Athens in January 1964 described him as ”the most serious contender for the leadership” of the Centre Union.
The Ioulians were preceded by two incidents concerning the army: the sabotage and sabotage of an armoured camp in Evros and the revelation of a grouping of junior army officers known as S.S.P.I.I.D.A., which aimed at the guild benefits of its members, while according to allegations it sought political cover from Andreas Papandreou, to whom, in return, it would supposedly provide strong support. As a consequence of these allegations there was a resurgence of attacks against the royalist chief of the GES Gennimata. George Papandreou wants him replaced but Petros Garoufalias makes this known to the Palace. Papandreou asks for Garoufalias” resignation, he refuses and the Prime Minister declares to the King his wish to take over the paperwork of the Ministry of Defence. He refuses because of the involvement of the Prime Minister”s son in the ASPIDA affair and suggests instead that another member of the Centre Union be appointed as Minister of Defence. Konstantinos Mitsotakis is quoted in an interview with Panteion professor Thanasis Diamantopoulos: “I declared that I and Garoufalias are not entering the same government”. On 10 July 1965, he was visited by the King”s envoy Makis Arnaoutis in order to sound him out in case the rupture between Papandreou and Constantine was finalized, and Mitsotakis proposed a wide-ranging reshuffle of the government, excluding himself and Andreas Papandreou, who were considered the leading contenders for succession to the leadership of the Centre Union. On 14 July he went with Nova, Tsirimoko, Stephanopoulos, Allamanis and Bakatsello to Kastri to convince Georgios Papandreou to accept a compromise. Mitsotakis wanted this initiative to take on a more formal character by drafting a letter to him from the visiting committee of Centrist MPs. In any case, as Professor Diamantopoulos notes, he moved ”to prevent his resignation”. When the king swore in George Athanasiadis Nova, it was a surprise to Mitsotakis and, as it was a fait accompli, ”I considered it my duty to express my solidarity with this effort […] to prevent the rupture”. In particular, he believed that if he did not support the Nova government, Constantine would lead things in the direction of imposing a dictatorship.For Diamantopoulos, the situation was exploited by Mitsotakis in the direction of finally settling his accounts with Andreas Papandreou. In the government of Georgios Athanasiadis Nova, he was sworn in as Minister of Coordination and temporarily Minister of Merchant Shipping. In the following days he made public statements describing the government as “a placeholder in the power of the Centre Union as a whole” and that he was in favour of the unity of the Centre Union. However, he denied Nova the imposition of martial law to deal with popular opposition. In October 1965, he delivered a speech in Chania, inaugurating the defector”s outreach to the people. In the crises of the highest officers that took place during the same period, he fought a political battle for a number of Cretan generals who he either wanted to be removed (Nikolakakis), promoted to key positions (Vitsaksakis) or not to be demobilized (Loukakis) In December 1965, he promoted his political friend Kostas Stefanakis to the Ministry of Justice. On 12 February 1966 he is elected with the most votes as one of the eight members of the political committee of the Liberal Democratic Centre of the apostate party. In September 1966 he differentiates himself from the formation of a broad electoral coalition under Karamanlis. At the same time he begins to move behind the scenes to amnesty the ASPIDA case, and the investigative report on this case accuses him of knowing and not making a complaint about a prisoner”s letter on this case.
The Polychronidis case
On 23 April 1966, he was accused by MP Polychronidis in Parliament that in January 1944 he received a bank cheque for 11.5 gold pounds on the orders of the German agency Militar Verbatung and was therefore a secret agent of the Germans. For this Mitsotakis filed a complaint in June of the same year. In Parliament he replied that it was a loan he had received from a friend, shortly before he was arrested again by the Germans, to cover his personal maintenance costs.
The Cyprus issue and the involvement of Mitsotakis
Three months after the “Iouliana”, in October 1965, during a private visit to Cyprus, he makes contacts with the President of the Republic, Archbishop Makarios, and on his departure from Nicosia he declares himself a supporter of the union. For a short time and after Tsirimokos was removed from the Foreign Ministry because due to the leak of some discussions the Turks did not trust the Greek Foreign Minister, until Ioannis Toubas took over, Mitsotakis took over.
Eight days before the coup occurred, he met with the American ambassador and proposed that the king form an ecumenical government which would postpone elections until 1968. On 21 April 1967 he was among the first to be arrested by the dictatorship of the Colonel Junta and was taken with other political leaders to the Tank Centre in Gudi. He planned to go down to Crete in anticipation of a dictatorship, in order to organize his next actions from there. However, he remained in Athens because he was a witness in the Memorandum Trial The next day he was transferred to a hotel in Pikermi and then, after fifteen days, after signing a statement that he would refrain from political action, he was placed under house arrest.Mitsotakis justified this stance as a result of his desire to get out of prison in order to have more leeway for anti-dictatorial action. Indicative of the importance the coup plotters attached to him was that he was arrested almost simultaneously with the coup and was arrested by Colonel Konstantinos Ladas. On April 26, 1967, the American ambassador Talbot in a report to Washington considered that Mitsotakis was suspected by the regime to have fled to Crete and stirred up an uprising. When the royal anti-movement broke out in December 1967 Mitsotakis went underground hiding in houses and when amnesty was granted by the regime he reappeared. In July 1968 on the occasion of the publication of the revised constitution by the Metrelia Committee he expressed his opposition and proposed the Karamanlis solution. On 15 August 1968 he fled abroad utilizing a network of houses, and friends he escaped from the port of Rafina with stops in northern Andros and Chios arriving in Tsesme. At the same time, to disorientate the authorities, he sent members of his family to Crete and Zakynthos. The Greek authorities were informed of his escape to Turkey, but in the meantime he passed from Cesme to Istanbul where he had a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Tsaglayagil. With the personal intervention of the Turkish politician he escaped on a Pakistani Airlines plane to Paris. There, accompanied by Stephanos Stephanopoulos, he met with Konstantinos Karamanlis on 23 August to express their intention to work together under his leadership to overthrow the dictatorship. On 27 August he holds a press conference in London. In September 1968, he settled in Paris, because it was also the centre of the Greek resistance abroad. In June 1969 he and the rest of his family leave abroad and join him in Venice. In the autumn of 1969 he joins Karamanlis and his official statement against the regime in Greece. In October-November 1969, at the invitation of Sigmund Nagorski, Director of the Council on Foreign Affairs, he travels to the USA where he meets members of the Greek-American lobby, Congress and Boulis. He travels to European countries (Sweden, Holland, etc.) and contacts foreign anti-dictatorship organisations (Democratic Defence, PAM), contributes to the publication of resistance publications (Greek Report Takis Lambria, Democracy), telegraphs Spyros Agnios in view of his forthcoming visit to Greece After a proposal from Sweden, Denmark and Norway, he is invited to testify before the Political Committee of the Council of Europe. and went there in October 1968. In July 1973, a Political Committee for the Coordination of the Democratic Struggle was formed in Paris with the participation of Mitsotakis, while at the same time he conducted tours and radio interviews against the YES vote in the 1973 referendum. In July 1974 he was tried by the Extraordinary Military Court of Crete for having provided the machinery of his newspaper O Kirex to the editor of the newspaper Votoporos Emm. Tsourlakis. without prior permission of the police command.
The following year the Neo-Liberal Party was dissolved and Pavlos Vardinoyannis joined the traditional Liberal Party, which was now led by Nikitas Venizelos, while K. Mitsotakis joined New Democracy after Karamanlis” decision to expand the party to the centre, taking over the Ministry of Coordination. In 1980 he became Minister of Foreign Affairs in the government of Georgios Rallis until the 1981 elections. He was the first Foreign Minister of Greece to visit Cyprus. He then served as a parliamentary representative of the New Democracy party until 1984.
On 1 September 1984, the Parliamentary Group of the New Democracy elected him as the party”s chairman, succeeding Evangelos Averoff. At that time he was considered the most suitable to face the then leader of PASOK, Andreas Papandreou, because he possessed the same qualifications as Papandreou and was therefore the most suitable to face him. He received 71 votes against 40 for his opponent Kostis Stephanopoulos.
The New Democracy under Mitsotakis has particularly strengthened the liberal reformist features in its programme and discourse, downgrading the traditional right-wing features of the previous decade.
This second defeat of the Southwest caused friction within the party and the questioning of its president. Konstantinos Stephanopoulos, a key internal rival of Mitsotakis, after the latter”s re-election from the parliamentary group of ND on 29 August 1985, chose to leave the party, founding the Democratic Renewal. Mitsotakis” total domination of New Democracy was confirmed at the 2nd Congress of the party in Thessaloniki in February 1986. On 4 February 1988, during a visit to London, he described the 1974 referendum on the constitutional question as unfair, causing a reaction within his party. In December 1988, he participated in the so-called “four-party movement” (i.e. the joint actions taken by the leaders of the four opposition parties Mitsotakis, Kyrkos, Florakis Stephanopoulos) with the aim of holding elections and finding a way out of the political crisis of the period.
In 1992 the government concluded an agreement with the former King Constantine, which provided for the return to the Greek state of most of the so-called “Royal Property”. In foreign policy, the beginning of Mitsotakis” administration coincided with the fall of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the beginning of the break-up of Yugoslavia. He undertook international initiatives, culminating in the Vouliagmeni Conference under the auspices of the OHE, and attempted to prevent the dissolution of the unitary federation of Yugoslavia. At the same time, he succeeded in normalising relations between Greece and the USA. In 1990 his government signed the final agreement on the US bases in Greece. In July 1991, the first official visit by an American President, George Bush, to Greece in 32 years took place, while in June 1990, he himself visited the United States. Under his premiership, Greece achieved entry into the Western European Union, a European defence and security cooperation organisation, and the foundations were laid for the European Union”s single monetary policy through EMU.
The break-up of Yugoslavia brought about the independence of the then federated Republic of Macedonia, which claimed the name “Republic of Macedonia”. The issue was initially handled by Foreign Minister Antonis Samaras, who was removed by Konstantinos Mitsotakis in April 1992, taking over the Foreign Ministry himself. He was unable to reorient the Greek position towards an internationally accepted goal, because he was now a hostage of public opinion, of the demagogic opposition of PASOK and Samaras, and of the opposition within the party. Konstantinos Mitsotakis succeeded in convincing the European Union at the Lisbon Summit to fully adopt the Greek positions. Despite the decision of the Lisbon Summit, the USA and Russia insisted on finding a compromise solution, the principle of which was the entry of this state into the UN under the provisional name of the “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (FYROM).
On 30 June 1993, Antonis Samaras founded a political group called Political Spring and in September of the same year, he urged his fellow members of the New Democracy party to become independent, causing the downfall of the government of Konstantinos Mitsotakis by withdrawing the confidence of the members of parliament from Ilia, Stephanos V. Stefan Stephanopoulos and George Simpilidis of Kilkis. This departure of Samaras caused an irreparable blow to his relations with Mitsotakis and for many years the two men had no communication with each other. However, according to Mitsotakis himself, the government of the New Democracy was overturned because it refused to give the digital services to the Siemens-Intracom consortium. After the early elections in October 1993 and the defeat of New Democracy, Konstantinos Mitsotakis resigned as party president. On 3 November 1993, he was awarded the title of Honorary President of the New Democracy.
On 11 January 1994, the new government majority of PASOK proposes the establishment of a committee of inquiry into the sale of AGET, which evolves into a preliminary investigation. In September of the same year, Konstantinos Mitsotakis, Andreas Andrianopoulos and Ioannis Paleokrassas were referred to the Supreme Special Court. On 12 January 1994, at the suggestion of PASOK, a preliminary inquiry was set up into the telephone tapping case, with Konstantinos Mitsotakis and Dora Bakoyannis as defendants, who were finally referred to the Supreme Special Court. In January 1995, Andreas Papandreou requested the suspension of the prosecution of political figures, which provoked a strong reaction from the then leader of the New Democracy, Miltiades Evert, as the main accused was Konstantinos Mitsotakis. In the end, the parliament, by secret ballot, voted against the impeachment of political figures. According to Mitsotakis, this move was made because the Papandreou government feared the outcome in the Special Court.
During his stay in the leadership of Miltiades Evert, he clashed with him intensely. In the 1997 party presidential contest, he supported the candidacy of Georgios Souflias, who failed to be elected. At the same time, he was elected as a member of parliament until 2004, when he announced in a speech to the parliamentary committee of the New Democracy Party his decision not to run in the next elections and his son, Kyriakos K. Mitsotakis, decided to run in the parliamentary elections in his father”s place.
Since then, he has continued to intervene in political life with his statements and interviews. After the defeat of New Democracy in the 2009 parliamentary elections, his daughter Dora Bakoyannis ran for the leadership of the party, but without success.
In 1993 he was made honorary leader of the New Democracy, while in 1986 he was honoured by the British Parliament for his resistance activities. In November 1998, he founded the non-profit company ”Konstantinos Mitsotakis Historical Archive”, the legal successor of which is the Konstantinos Mitsotakis Foundation, established by presidential decree in April 2001. On 31 October 2005, the Konstantinos K. Mitsotakis Chair of Greek Studies was established in his honour at the Stanford University School of Humanities in the United States on the initiative of the Tsakopoulou-Kounalakis family of expatriates, who donated $2 million for this purpose. He has also taken part in a meeting of the Bilderberg Club (1993), is a member of the Athenian Club, a founding member of the national research and studies foundation ”Eleftherios K. Venizelos” and has been awarded the Grand Cross of the Komnenoi Emperors of Trebizond by the Panagia Soumela Foundation and the Venizelion Award by the Pancretan Association of America.
To the President Mr. Konstantinos Mitsotakis was awarded in May 2016 the highest honorary distinction of the Alexandria Technological Educational Institute of Thessaloniki, the medal of the first class “GOLDEN ALEXANDROS ALEXANDROS”, which is awarded to individuals of high international prestige who have been distinguished for their outstanding work and their special contribution to the promotion and advancement of Social and National issues at international level, in recognition of his multifaceted presence and his valuable and important work for the country.
He passed away on May 29, 2017 at dawn (1 a.m.) at the age of 98. The funeral service was held on 31 May with the honours of a serving Prime Minister at the Metropolis of Athens, while a four-day public mourning period was declared from the day of his death. He was buried a day later in the village of Arguulide, Akrotiri, Chania, next to his wife Marika.
Together with his wife, Marika, he owned a rich collection of archaeological objects, which they started in 1978. The collection includes 1,062 ancient objects, mainly from Crete, dating from the end of the 4th millennium BC to the 3rd century AD, while part of it is believed to come from clandestine excavations carried out in the period 1979-1980 in the area of the Odigitria Monastery. The collection was first exhibited at the Museum of Cycladic Art in 1992. In 2000 the Mitsotakis couple donated the collection to the Archaeological Museum of Chania, which is housed in a room named after Konstantinos Mitsotakis.
He married Marika Giannoukou on 6 June 1953 and with her he acquired
For Evanthis Hadjivassiliou,
For the political scientist Meleti Meletopoulos, “[…] it embodied everything that was most old-party in the great centrist party of that time.” For Panteion professor Thanasis Diamantopoulos, it was
In a report of the American Embassy in Athens in January 1964, he was described as “extremely ambitious and ruthless”. For the journalist Eleni Vlachou ”A good orator – an extraordinary orator in a closed space, in Parliament he outdid everyone, while in open spaces […] he lost this gift […]. A good family man. He got on well with foreigners, especially Germans, because he knew the language and had the necessary seriousness […]. In finances, without being an eagle, he proceeded sensibly, as in most matters.” On the academic Theodoros Kouloubis, “Mitsotakis is a very intelligent man. He is a total political being. He manages,as a rule, to create turmoil, anxiety and controversy.”