Great European: Androulla Vassiliou

Androulla Vassiliou is a Cypriot liberal politician, who held important positions in her home country and in the European Union institutions. She is married to Georgios Vassiliou, former President of Cyprus. The couple has three children. By Veronika Czina.

 Androulla Vassiliou was born on November 30th 1943. She studied law at Middle Temple in London between 1961 and 1964, after which she studied international affairs until 1966 at the LondonAndroulla Vassiliou Institute of World Affairs. She speaks Greek, English and French. After her studies she returned to Cyprus in 1968 where she practiced law for 20 years. Vassiliou acted as legal advisor to the Standard Chartered Bank and, later, to the Bank of Cyprus. At the same time, she was on the board of many public and private companies. When her husband, Georgios Vassiliou was elected President of Cyprus (1988-1993), she ended her legal practice. In 1993 Georgios Vassiliou founded the Cypriot United Democrats party (affiliated to the European Liberal Democrats and Reform Party – ELDR), of which Androulla also became a member. She was elected to the House of Representatives in Cyprus in 1996, representing the United Democrats, and later got re-elected in 2001 and 2006.

At that time Vassiliou was already devoted to EU matters, so she worked for the European Affairs Committee as well as the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Cyprus and the EU. Between 2001 and 2006 she was also Vice President of the ELDR Party and the chairperson of the European Liberal Women’s Network. In March 2008 Vassiliou was nominated to be European Commissioner for Health and held the position until 2010. In the second Barroso Commission, from February 2010, she obtained the Education, Culture, Multilinguism and Youth portfolio. From the autumn of 2014 she did not continue her activity as Commissioner in the Juncker Commission. The portfolio held by her was also changed to a certain extent, as it has been renamed Education, Culture, Youth and Citizenship: multilinguism was deleted from the name, and a very important area, citizenship was added to the tasks of this Commissioner.

Vassiliou has not only been engaged with political activity in the national and EU political arenas, but also in the field of human rights and international affairs. She was President of the UN Association of Cyprus between 1978 and 1992 and President of the World Federation of UN Associations from 1991 until 1995. She was Honorary President of the World Federation and the Cyprus Federation of Business and Professional Women for four years. She has also been engaged in health-related organizations: she chaired the board of trustees of the Cyprus Oncology centre between 2002 and 2008.

Before her term as Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilinguism and Youth ended, in October 2014, she issued her legacy brochure, called ‘Preparing for Life’. The booklet details the impact of the Commission’s activities and wide-ranging programmes in the fields of education, youth, culture and sports. It contains the greatest improvements and resources that were allocated to the Erasmus+ programme and also the Commission’s activities in the cultural and creative sectors. Androulla Vasiliou is an example of a Great European through her excellent leadership in international topics.


Image ‘Androulla Vassiliou at Göteborg Book Fair 2013’ by Alrid Vagen, released under Wikimedia Commons.

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