When someone – be that a person, a company or a state – is in financial trouble and needs help to solve his financial problems, there is one ingredient which is more important than anything else — credibility! The counterparties must get the impression that they are dealing with serious people; people who have a sincere desire to solve the problems; people who know how to handle themselves professionally and who come across decently; people who don’t play games and who don’t try to pull fast ones.
When Mr. Papandreou came to the scene (and to me he only came to the scene after the financial problems had erupted), I was most impressed by how he handled himself and how he represented Greece and Greeks. To put it bluntly: I would have bought a used car from him.
Why? Probably because he came across so cosmopolitan; so charismatic in his demeanor (at least on the international scene). To me, Mr. Papandreou easily outclassed the people sitting with him at the same table in Brussels and/or other European capitals. He once gave a speech in Germany where Ms. Merkel and the head of the German Industrial Association also spoke. The latter came across like a German professor from the text book; Ms. Merkel came across as the “Mutti” that she is perceived as; and Mr. Papandreou was the “sir”. A German journalist commented with a strong German accent that Papandreou spoke “good English”. Hey, great observation!
I did not expect Mr. Papandreou to know how Greece’s problems could be solved but I did expect that he would surround himself with the best possible advisors from the entire world to help him — and to listen to them. And I felt certain that he was doing that.
My enthusiam for the person led me to write him a letter. Then another letter. And then another one. In one letter I warned: “Then comes the population’s outcry ‘we have had it; no more of this!’. And then, I am afraid to say, even you and your government will find out that you have had it”.
I was enthusiastic when he came up with the idea of a referendum, not because of a referendum being a good idea but, instead, because of its being an excellent negotiating instrument. Before he went to Cannes, I asked whether Mr. Papandreou would turn out to be “a Mrs. Thatcher” or just “the son of his father”. Sadly, he turned out to be just the son of this father.