Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos called on Wednesday for New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras to fire his party’s spokesman Yiannis Michelakis as a war of words over comments the government official is alleged to have made in Turkey escalated.
Pangalos also said he would sue the Eleftheros Typos newspaper over its report, which labeled him a “liar” and accused him of denigrating Greeks during a recent visit to Turkey.
The newspaper published a transcript of the conversation that Pangalos had following a visit to Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios.
A journalist from Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper was among the group and he recorded what the deputy prime minister said. A link to the recording was placed on Eleftheros Typos’s website.
The controversy over Pangalos’s comments arose after reports that he said Greeks were paying the price for being lazy while the Turks worked hard and their economy benefited.
New Democracy labeled Pangalos, known for being outspoken, as “out of control.”
However, Pangalos denies agreeing to any interview with a journalist from Hurriyet, suggesting he intended his comments to be off the record.
In fact, in the recording the deputy prime minister can be heard saying that “there are lot of decent and hardworking people” in Greece. He did, however, admit that there were problems with the public sector. “We have been trying to avoid breaking into it and its practices for years,” he said. “It was a comfortable way to live but also a lazy way to live and now we have to face it.”
Sources said that Prime Minister George Papandreou has privately backed Pangalos but has expressed concern about the ongoing public battle he is having with Michelakis, who used to work at Eleftheros Typos.