June 28, 2012 / 9:27 AM / 6 years ago

Greek president to fly economy class to Brussels

ATHENS (Reuters) - The president of debt-laden Greece will travel economy class to a European Union summit this week, his office said on Wednesday.

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy poses with Greek's President Karolos Papoulias (L) before their meeting at the EU Council in Brussels June 27, 2012. REUTERS/Laurent Dubrule

Leaders of the 27-nation EU meet in Brussels on Thursday for a two-day summit to be dominated by the euro zone’s debt crisis.

A source familiar with the travel plans of the Greek delegation, led by 83-year-old President Karolos Papoulias, said they would travel economy on a regular Aegean Airlines flight to Brussels.

The show of frugality follows a 30-percent pay cut for ministers in the new ruling coalition - a response to public anger over government waste and privilege as ordinary Greeks bear the brunt of punishing cuts demanded by the EU and International Monetary Fund in exchange for a rescue.

The president has already given up his 280,000 euro salary.

“He’s flying Aegean Airways, economy class, to set an example,” a presidential aide told Reuters.

Papoulias, whose post is mainly ceremonial, is going to Brussels only because the new Greek government was struck by two medical emergencies shortly after it was formed last week. Papoulias will stand in for Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, 22 years his junior, who is recovering from eye surgery.

Samaras’s first choice for finance minister, Vassilis Rapanos, resigned within days of his appointment after being taken to hospital with abdominal pain, nausea and dizziness. Outgoing Finance Minister George Zanias will be part of the delegation with Papoulias.

A former resistance fighter against the military junta that ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974, Papoulias said in February he was giving up his salary in solidarity with the Greek people as lawmakers voted deep cuts to wages, pensions and jobs as the price of a bailout worth 130 billion euros.

Papoulias has held the ceremonial position of president since 2005, on a salary just less than the $400,000 earned by U.S. President Barack Obama. (Additional reporting by Karolina Tagaris; Writing by Matt Robinson; Editing by Barry Moody)

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