Pangalos’s finest hour

At some point, the new government’s PR offensive will wane and the administration will have to grapple with the country’s daunting fiscal problems. This could prove to be Theodoros Pangalos’s finest hour. His appointment as deputy prime minister is widely seen as PM George Papandreou’s smartest move. PASOK semiotics aside, Pangalos is seen as a cushion against in-party feuding. The experienced Pangalos has traits that could be crucial against inner-party bickering. First, he is a pragmatist. He is not moved by nebulous analyses and declarations. In his eyes, political cost is an annoyance but not any real obstacle stopping him from doing what he has to do. More importantly, it’s hard to imagine a minister, even one of the senior cadres, talking back to Pangalos or simply ignoring him. His new post may be a fitting conclusion to an eventful – and, yes, occasionally self-destructive – political career. Pangalos likes to take on the real hard stuff even if that means putting his own political future at stake. He did so during the Imia crisis when he had to chose between two potentially destructive alternatives. He tackled the crisis with realism; he avoided engaging in conflict or attending a humiliating summit. In the case of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan, Pangalos took it upon himself to try and save a lost cause knowing that it could severely damage him. Assigning Pangalos that crucial post, of course, entails risk. No one likes to think of what will happen should he feel that his role is mere cosmetic or should he argue with a key minister. His experience and the fact that he has dealt with the biggest post-1974 crises make him a key player in a system that has never been tested. As Warren Christopher once said on seeing young people wandering around the White House, seemingly without direction: «It wouldn’t be a bad idea if an old guy with gray hair and paunch came in here to sort you out.»