An interview with Kevin Featherstone and Dimitris Papadimitriou, authors of Prime Ministers in Greece: the Paradox of Power

Many thanks to Kevin Featherstone and Dimitris Papadimitriou, authors of shortlisted book Prime Ministers in Greece: the Paradox of Power, who kindly agreed to this interview.

It was difficult not to get carried away with all the questions I wanted to ask them. In fact, some of my questions were impossible to answer in just one paragraph, and would have required… a whole book!

You were both involved in an ad hoc advisory committee to George Papandreou some years ago. Can you tell us more about it? What impact did the advisory committee have? Were any changes made as a result?

We interviewed George Papandreou, before he became PM, about his father, Andreas.  It was a good and wide-ranging discussion.  Kevin had written in ‘Kathimerini’ about the contrast between the formal powers of the Greek PM and the practical reality of a constrained and under-resourced position.  Later, after George’s election victory he invited Kevin to join an ad hoc advisory committee on how to ‘modernise’ the government structure and operation.  The Committee was to be composed of foreigners; Dimitris made his own bilateral input.  George announced in 2010 that he would be adopting the Committee’s Report and he started to implement some of its action-points.  But, of course, wider political events took over and George resigned as PM.  Yet, the impact continued: the governments that followed took action to reform the government at the centre and the Troika itself pressed this same agenda.  So, a focus had been defined and an agenda set.

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An excerpt from Kevin Featherstone and Dimitris Papadimitriou’s book, Prime Ministers in Greece: the Paradox of Power

Prime Ministers in Greece: The Paradox of Power (OUP, 2015)

Kevin Featherstone and Dimitris Papadimitriou


The debt crisis that enveloped Greece after 2009 – shaking the international financial markets and raising doubts about the viability of the ‘euro-zone’ – drew attention to how the Greek political system was governed and its capacity to deliver reform. In that sense, the crisis served the purpose of highlighting issues that had been long-ignored, to Greece’s detriment.

The genesis of this book predates the crisis and grew out of a recognition that Greek politics exhibits a paradox: legal scholarship and much public debate assumes that the Prime Minister exercises great authority, often unchecked by others; yet, the practical reality of the PM’s post – reflected in repeated ‘under-performance’ in delivering promised reforms – is of operational weakness, sustaining a lack of control and coordination across the government machine.

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