Greek President Karolos Papoulias. AFP photo
Greek President Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday urged his country to work together to tackle its debt crisis after lawmakers elected him for a second term as head of state.
The parliamentary vote came as Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou announced tough austerity measures to boost the struggling economy, including a public salary freeze, higher retirement age and a hike in petrol prices.
The president in Greece is primarily a national figurehead with limited powers, and after winning the vote Papoulias called for "the state and the Greek people to do everything they can to overcome the crisis."
"We must improve the profitability of Greek institutions. A fair, strong and efficient state can overcome the current situation and open better avenues for Greece," Papoulias said.
"We must all work in this historic transition and be united. I will work with you in this great effort."
The scope of Greece's debt, an estimated 294 billion Euros ($412 billion) and its 12.7 percent public deficit have shaken the euro and put pressure on Greek sovereign bonds.
Papoulias, 80, who enjoys widespread public support, was the only candidate for the post of president and won votes from lawmakers across the political spectrum.
Of the 298 deputies who voted, 266 backed Papoulias, with only the communist and radical left parties abstaining.
Papoulias was elected for a first five-year term in 2005 and has spoken out a number of times on environmental issues, particularly during the deadly fires that raged in southern Greece in 2007.
Originally from Ioannina, in northwestern Greece, Papoulias was close to the former Prime Minister Andrea Papandreou, the founder of the ruling socialist party Pasok and father of the current prime minister.
A lawyer by training, Papoulias served as a lawmaker from 1977 until 2000 and was foreign minister twice during the 1980s and 1990s.
Under his direction, Greece took a hard line towards its neighbor Turkey and supported Serbia in the wars following the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
In 2001, he criticized the decision to send Milosevic to trial at the United Nation's war crimes tribunal for former Yugoslavia in The Hague.
In his younger days, Papoulias was an accomplished sportsman, becoming the Greek national pole vault champion and playing for the national volleyball team.