When in early 1995, Costas Verros, who had been API president from 1991 onwards, joined the Spokespersons Group of the European Commission, it took many colleagues by surprise. A journalist changing sides? Well, Costas thought that it was time for a change – neither for the first nor the last time in his professional career.
Before stepping into journalism in the early eighties he had worked for the diplomatic service for his home country Greece. Whether as a diplomat, a journalist or as a Commission spokesperson – one thing was consistent: his friendliness and loyalty.
On Saturday 15 April, his 76th birthday, Costas passed away in Athens after a long illness. Our thoughts go to a well respected and kind colleague who led API as president through a challenging period in the years 1991 to the end of 1994.
After spending time in Greek diplomatic representations in Brussels London and Strasbourg Costas started working in Brussels as journalist. A couple of years later he became Brussels correspondent for the newly set up television channel Antenna Group. He became more and more closely involved with API, becoming its president in 1991. At that time of the around 20 members of the API Council three were Greek journalists: Costas Verros, Costas Moschanas and Nikos Bellos.
Among the most delicate tasks during the Verros-presidency of API was the change in the language regime in the Commission´s press room. Within the API Council there was some reluctance, not only from the representative of the French colleagues, to switch over from the unilingual (French) regime to the current bilingual, with English and French on equal footing. Costas managed to keep emotions as low as possible and eventually helped to come to an agreement between all groups. With the arrival of the Santer Commission in early 1995, English was granted the same status as French in the daily press briefings.
There was another specific issue which showed how selflessly Costas fulfilled his task as API president. When a large majority of API Council members had asked for a smoking ban in the Council of Minister´s press center in the Charlemagne building, Costas took the request on board and the Council of the EU agreed to install a ban. Having said this, to be loyal for Costas did not mean giving up his own convictions. But it meant defending the interests of the press corps as expressed by a clear majority.
Heading in the same direction was seen by Costas as a major challenge for the credibility of API. In October 1993, in an editorial for API News, he insisted on the importance of members to actively support the association's actions: "If API is to defend properly the interests of foreign journalists, it needs the full support of its members. Only in that way will the Council have the necessary authority to negotiate with the European and Belgian authorities." Thirty years later, this call certainly remains valid.
In early 1995 Costas became spokesperson for Christos Papoutsis, the Greek member of the Santer Commission responsible for energy, small and medium enterprises and tourism. When the Commission stepped down in March 1999 and the Prodi Commission took office and changed the entire team of spokespeople, it was time for Costas once more to switch sides. He returned to his home country and back into journalism. Until his retirement in 2012 he worked as television journalist in Athens and in Thessaloniki where he was involved in setting up and successfully leading the channel Makedonia TV.
Costas spent the last years of his life in Athens. Not only in his home town will he be remembered as a skilful, conscientious and kind person.
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