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Born in Athens, Dimas studied law and economics at the University of Athens and went on to gain a master's degree from New York University. In 1969 he began working as a lawyer for a firm on Wall Street, moving to the World Bank the following year. In 1975 he returned to Greece to take up the post of deputy governor of the Hellenic Industrial Development Bank.
From 1977 he was active in Greek politics as a member of the conservative New Democracy party. He was elected to the Greek parliament ten consecutive times from that year. From the outset he was involved in Greece's accession negotiations with the European Union. He went on to hold a variety of ministerial and other political positions:
- Deputy Minister of Economic Coordination (1977–1980)
- Minister of Trade (1980–1981)
- Parliamentary spokesperson for the New Democracy party (1985–1989)
- Minister of Agriculture (1989–1990)
- Minister of Industry, Energy and Technology (1990–1991)
- Secretary-General of New Democracy (1995–2000)
- Senior Member of the Political Analysis Steering Committee of New Democracy (2000–2003)
- Head of the New Democracy delegation to the Council of Europe (2000–2004)
Dimas served briefly in the Prodi Commission. He was appointed European Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs in March 2004, taking over the role from the previous Greek Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou. A major focus of his work during this time involved making it more difficult for states to opt out of the Working Time Directive. His efforts were criticised by business leaders, trade unions (who considered him weak on the issue), and some governments. The Greek government nominated Dimas for the incoming Barroso Commission which took office on 22 November 2004.
In a speech to a committee of the European Parliament Dimas announced four main priorities for his term in office: climate change, biodiversity, public health and sustainability. He emphasised the importance of the Kyoto Protocol, the Natura 2000 project, the REACH directive, and the need to better enforce existing EU environmental legislation.1
Concerns were raised in advance by MEPs and many NGOs that by appointing a former Wall Street lawyer and industry minister to the environment post the EU had signalled a decreased commitment to environmental issues in favour of promoting economic competitiveness.
Questioned by the European Parliament, Dimas took the view that preserving the environment and promoting competitiveness went hand in hand, and that environmental policy could provide a stimulus for technological innovation. Among other statements, he said that GM residues in seeds should be the lowest technically feasible.
Following his hearing Dimas received a sceptical response from most MEPs. Many believed him to have insufficient experience to fulfil the role. Karl-Heinz Florenz, chair of the Environment Committee and a member of the conservative EPP-ED, said that European environment policy needed, "more than just declarations of intention.... If Commission President-designate Barroso puts the Lisbon Strategy on top of the agenda, this must not mean that the primacy of economic over environment policy gets cemented." However, he stressed the need to give Dimas time to 'grow into' his role. The Socialists gave him a qualified approval but criticised his plans as too vague. The Greens and the left-wing GUE/NGL opposed his appointment outright, with the Greens naming him as one of the three "incompetent" Commissioners-designate who prompted them to vote against the Commission as a whole. Representatives of industry and the business community welcomed his appointment to the environment post.
Stance on climate change
Dimas led the EU in its tough line on climate change during the first weeks of the new Commission. At UN talks on climate change in Buenos Aires in December 2004 he attempted to negotiate a new system of mandatory emissions reductions to follow the expiration of the initial Kyoto targets in 2012. This approach met with fierce opposition from the USA, representatives of which refused to even discuss the matter. The Italian environment minister Altero Matteoli broke EU ranks on the issue, proposing voluntary targets after 2012, and saying that it was, "unthinkable to go ahead without the US, China and India."
Dimas oversaw the introduction of the EU's emissions trading scheme, due to take effect on 1 January 2005, despite emissions reduction plans from Poland, Italy, the Czech Republic and Greece not having been approved on time. He also sought to include companies operating aircraft under the emissions trading regime.
- Speech to the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Consumer Affairs (full text (PDF)), 29 September 2004
|European Commissioner for the Environment|
|European Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs|
(as part of wider portfolio)
|Greek European Commissioner|
Joaquín Almunia | José Manuel Barroso | Jacques Barrot | Joe Borg | Stavros Dimas | Benita Ferrero-Waldner | Ján Figeľ | Franco Frattini | Mariann Fischer Boel | Dalia Grybauskaitė | Danuta Hübner | Siim Kallas | László Kovács | Neelie Kroes | Markos Kyprianou | Peter Mandelson | Charlie McCreevy | Louis Michel | Andris Piebalgs | Janez Potočnik | Viviane Reding | Olli Rehn | Vladimír pidla | Günter Verheugen | Margot Wallström