European Voice, 22 December 2003
EV50 The Europeans of the Year
A European Voice event in association with Burson-Marsteller
George Papandreou - (The Bridge-Builder) Diplomat of the Year
With war in Iraq edging closer during the early months of this year, more than a few commentators mused on whether plans to build a viable EU common foreign policy would be irretrievably buried under Baghdad rubble.
The unenviable task of damage limitation fell primarily to Greece's Foreign Minister George Papandreou, whose government then held the Union's rotating presidency.
With his almost beatific sense of calm, the man with the moustache temporarily succeeded in rallying all 15 member states and 12 candidates around a common position - adopted in February - that demanded both full and effective disarmament from Saddam Hussein and insisted that force should only be used as a last resort.
As it turned out, the accord was rapidly eclipsed by the famous outburst from French President Jacques Chirac against the incoming EU states who sided with the US.
But that should not be allowed to detract from the fact that securing a unified stance - however short-lived - on an issue as sensitive as Iraq was a considerable feat. No doubt, this had much to do with the diplomatic skills Papandreou has honed in recent years - his tough apprenticeship in diplomacy was trying to improve the constantly tetchy relations between Athens and Ankara.
His bridge-building has been recognized by such august organs as Le Monde, which has dubbed him the architect of Greek-Turkish rapprochement.
Somehow one could never imagine the same tag being applied to his swashbuckling father, Andreas, who as prime minister generally took a more confrontational approach to his Turkish neighbour.