Karolos Papoulias was born on June 4th, 1929, in Ioannina, Epirus.
His father was Major General Grigorios Papoulias, a member of the
heroic military academy class of 1911. He died in September 1936 as
a result of the hardships he suffered during the 1921 expedition to
Karolos Papoulias attended the Pogonian (Epirus) Elementary School
and the High Schools of Pogoniani and Athens. During the Nazi occupation
of Greece he was among the first to join the armed resistance against
the invading forces.
He studied law at the Universities of Athens, Milan and Cologne
where he submitted his PhD thesis on Private International Law.
He worked for the Munich Institute for South-Eastern Europe. He
is the author of a volume on the Greek resistance movement against
the Nazis, published by the prestigious German publishing house
Surkamp, as well as of a number of studies and articles that have
appeared in foreign newspapers and magazines.
The 1967 military coup found him in Western Germany. He was among
the founders of the Socialist Democratic Union which organized and
mobilized Greeks working and studying in Western Europe against
the colonel's junta. He was also a founding member of the first
trade union resistance organization and broadcast regularly from
Deutsche Welle radio.
Since December 1974 he has been continually elected to the PASOK
Central Committee. He was also member of the Coordination Council,
the Executive Bureau and the Political Secretariat, as well as Secretary
of the PASOK International Re1ations Committee from April 1975 to
1985. For a number of years he was also a member of the Coordinating
Committee of the Socialist and Progressive Parties of the Mediterranean.
He was first elected to Parliament in 1977 and represented Ioannina
continuously until the 2004 election.
From 1981 to 1989 and from 1993 to 1996, during the Andreas Papandreou
governments, he was undersecretary, Deputy Minister and finally
Minister of Foreign Affairs. During the Zolotas all party government
he was Deputy Minister of Defence.
In the C. Simitis administration he was for a number of years Chairman
of the Standing Committee on Defence and Foreign Affairs of the
During his long career as a Minister, he identified himself with
a foreign policy that was clearsighted and comprehensive. In the
80's he played a key role in trying to bring about a solution to
the problem of the Middle East. This culminated in the successful
mediation for the safe departure of the trapped Palestinian resistance
fighters and Arafat himself from Lebanon, on board Greek vessels
He paid particular attention to the creation of sound relations
with the Arab world and achieved, among other things, the normalisation
of relations between Greece and Egypt and the establishment of the
tripartite cooperation of Iran, Armenia and Greece. He held talks
with a total of 12 Turkish Foreign Ministers and was firmly committed
to the continuous and difficult effort to normalize Greek-Turkish
relations. This culminated in the signing of the Papoulias-Yilmaz
memorandum in 1988.
He supported Turkey's European aspirations conditional on their
respect for international law and European Union values.
In the period 1993-1996 and particularly at the crucial Essen Summit
he played an important role in starting accession talks between
the Republic of Cyprus and the European Union.
As president-in-office of the European Union and member of the
contact group for the former Yugoslavia, together with Warren Christopher,
Klaus Kinkel, Alain Juppe, Andrei Kosyrev and Hans Van Der Brook,
he spared no effort to bring about a resolution of the crisis in
Bosnia- Herzegovina. He signed the Interim Agreement with the Former
Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), aiming at the establishment
of better relations between the two countries. He has always kept
channels of communication open with all Balkan leaders and has repeatedly
mediated on behalf of the EU.
He was very interested in relations between Greece and the Balkan
states and it was upon his initiative that the first meeting of
the Foreign Ministers of the Balkans was organized in Belgrade in
1988. There, he began talks with Bulgaria and the then Soviet Union
on the Burgas- Alexandroupolis oil pipeline.
He was responsible for the signing of the protocol of mutual civil
and military assistance with Bulgaria in the 80's. He restored friendly
and neighbourly relations with Albania by ending the state of war
between the two countries.
Karolos Papoulias has always been very supportive of any step towards
detente, peace and disarmament e.g. the "Initiative of the
Six" for peace and disarmament, the participation of Greece
in the Conference on Disarmament and Peace in Europe and in the
Conference for the Abolition of Chemical Weapons, his proposals
to create a nuclear-free zone in the Balkans and the promotion of
the idea of making the Mediterranean a sea of peace and cooperation.
The JANNINA 1 tripartite cooperation conference, between Greece,
Bulgaria and Romania, was his idea and he was a strong supporter
of the Black Sea Conference, which he also chaired.
With his visit to Washington in 1985 and the return visit of Secretary
of State George Shultz, he made an important contribution to the
redefining and improvement of Greek-American relations which had
gone through a delicate phase during the previous years.
He is a founding member and, was until recently the president,
of the Association for the Greek Linguistic Heritage.
He speaks German, French and Italian.
He was Greek pole-vault champion, member of the national volley-ball
team and president for twenty five years of the historic Ethnikos
He is married to May
Panou and has three daughters.