Homage to Michalis Charalambidis: A great politician, outstanding intellectual and unique human being

Dimitris Tsingos
4 min readApr 1, 2024

Last Wednesday March 27th marked the loss of Michalis Charalambidis at the age of 73. Michalis was a great political figure, an outstanding intellectual and, by all measures, a truly remarkable human being. He also was an invaluable mentor and a very dear friend. I was blessed to know him in person since 1999, the year when he left PASOK [Greece’s then dominant political party] to launch “Democratic Regional Union”, a political movement which was ahead of its time.

It is worth noting that Charalambidis was a co-founder of PASOK and one of the seven co-authors — the youngest one, aged 23 in1974 — of the party’s founding manifesto. Over the years he evolved to the only voice in the party being able to disagree with Andreas Papandreou, PASOK’s founder, often fiercely, but always having the founder’s respect.

Having studied and lived for many years in Rome, Michalis was known in Greece as “the Italian”. In his recent book “Calabria: Ellade Profonda”, he claims that the ties between Italy and Greece are unbreakable and that — given the historic, cultural and intellectual gravity of the Greco-Roman partnership for Europe and the World — a closer, tighter and more strategic cooperation between those two countries is a prerequisite for the successful integration of Europe — An opinion with which I could not agree more. Charalambidis describes himself in that book as an “Italian Greek” — “un Italiota Greco”.

Michalis believed that being a party leader is incompatible with having an executive role in the government. Much as he was one of the party’s most popular leaders, he never was a candidate for the parliament, nor took he any role in the government. Actually, he never got any kind of payment or compensation from the Greek state — an absolutely unique case for a leading politician in the country and beyond. It has to be said that no-one could embody the meaning of the expression “walk the talk” better than he did.

After realizing that the circumstances were not yet right for the new party — and after facing a totalitarian reaction from the establishment, systematically and completely excluding him from all mass media — he focused his efforts on two fronts:
- On the one had he wrote more than two dozens of books, expressing his views on an incredible variety of topics: Geopolitics, human rights, and the New Eastern Questions to agricultural economy, architecture and planning (and its relationship to the public sphere and democracy), tourism as cultural economy and much more. His work is just gigantic, significantly surpassing any similar efforts of politicians either of our era or earlier once.
- On the other hand he launched a campaign all over Greece (as well as in countries like Italy, Germany and Cyprus) giving speeches on various topics. He was inspired by the Ancient Greek democracy bringing forward the concept of “Homily” (or “Omelia” in Latin, as used by the Catholic Church), coming from the Ancient Greek words “Omilia” and “Omilos” which have the dual meaning of “group” and “logos” (reason, wisdom), underlining that only debating and discussing in equal terms, with our any filters or intermediates, can lead us to true wisdom and to true democracy.

I am convinced that in the years to come Michalis Charalambidis will be recognised as a leading European thinker of our time. His work will be studies and will inspire future generations to rediscover politics, in the authentic meaning of the term, as the means for living a better life and, at the same time, for making the world a better place. He used to remind us that Aristotle described human as a ‘political animal’, commenting that if one removes ‘political’ they end up with only an ‘animal’. He was right, as reality demonstrates each and every day all around the globe.

Michalis was regularly invited to young and startup entrepreneurs’ conferences while recently he launched a masterclass for the Starttech Ventures portfolio companies’ team members aiming to study the relation of politics with economic growth and sustainability. He delivered six out of the eight planned lectures, the last one taking place on March 12th, which was his last public appearence.

It is, then, with profound sorrow that I have to bid adieu to a beloved friend and an invaluable mentor. I launched by entrepreneurial journey thanks to his pertinent public advice and encouragement to the youth of Greece back in the late 1990s (when, on the contrary. the mainstream advice was to get hired to the public sector, leading to the Greek collapse of 2010). Words do not suffice to thank him enough. I can only promise to keep working for making his legacy known to the Greek and more broadly to the European audience.

I wrote this article on the day of his passing, as well as that one, as an obituary at the day of his funeral (both in Greek). Friends who know Italian, can also see this article, sharing the news of his passing and discussing his legacy.

Much as sharing sad news is always difficult, I did feel the need to share these news with you, paying in public my deepest and most sincere respect to Michalis Charlambidis, the person who shaped my thinking more than anyone else outside my family.

Michalis Charalambidis

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