This week’s plenary debate in the European Parliament on the alarming rule of law backsliding in Greece is long overdue.
Sophie in ´t Veld’s weekly update
Jan 14, 2024
Although many problems pre-date the Mitsotakis government, it is fair to say that since he took over power in 2019 the rule of law situation has deteriorated rapidly. However, Mitsotakis has the full and unconditional – or shall we say blind – backing of his European party, the EPP. This gives him cover in the European Parliament. Furthermore, Mitsotakis is, contrary to Orbàn or the previous Polish PiS government, not a troublemaker in the European Council. Therefore, the other members of the Council, including Charles Michel and Ursula Von der Leyen prefer to ignore the descent into authoritarianism and kleptocracy in Greece.
The situation is dire and the European Parliament has a duty to speak out, as it has done on rule of law issues in Poland, Hungary, Malta, Slovakia or Slovenia. Greek rule of law issues are as much of a threat to the EU as a whole as those in other countries, and the Greek people are just as entitled to our support. The widow of journalist Giorgos Karaivaz, whose murder remains unresolved after three years, is just as entitled to justice as the relatives of Daphne Caruana Galizia and of Jan Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova.
“Daphne’s Law” – our European act curbing the practice of ‘Strategic lawsuit against public participation’ (SLAPPs) – applies as much to Greek journalists, as it does to any other journalist in the EU. Ten days from now, brave Greek journalists will be in court, fighting the SLAPPs launched against them by the nephew of the Prime Minister. The European Parliament repeatedly called for the SLAPPs against Daphne Caruana Galizia to be repealed. It should be equally outspoken on the SLAPPs against Greek journalists. Or do we believe that Greek journalists who are exposing pushbacks, abuse of spyware and corruption should not get the same support as others? Greece ranks lowest of all EU countries on the Press Freedom Index, at place 107. Yes, below Hungary. And not without reason.
The parents of the fifty-seven young people who died in the February 2023 Tempi train crash deserve to get the truth on the cause of the accident. They have the right to know if their children died unnecessarily as a result of corruption, fraud and guilty negligence. Parliament must not ignore the investigation of EPPO into financial wrongdoing with 700 mio euro in EU funding for rail safety. Do the loved ones of the six hundred migrants who drowned in the 2023 Pylos shipwreck, trapped like rats in the belly of the ship, not have the right to know the cause and what role the Greek coast guard played?
Europe rightfully spoke up about the political capture of Polish and Hungarian judicial system. So why do we turn a blind eye to the capture of the Prosecutor’s office in Greece? Not to mention the political capture of the state’s secret services. Does it somehow look less serious in the shimmer of Greek golden sunlight?
Independent officials who investigate corruption – like Prosecutor Touloupaki – or abuse of spyware – like ADAE chief Rammos – should merit the same support Parliament gave to officials in Poland who underwent a similar nightmarish fate of intimidation, defamation and harassment, including phoney criminal charges. Will we chose to forget the findings of PEGA and abandon the victims, including even our own colleagues, like Nikos Androulakis and Giorgos Kyrtsos, just because it is politically expedient?
Do we feel comfortable being quiet when within a short period of time three Roma youths die at the hands of the police, in very suspicious circumstances and the crime scene was washed by the police before the forensic investigation? In particular as we are aware of the role of the police in the homophobic killing of Zak Kostopoulos, where no real justice was done.
This and much, so much more.
I look at the facts of the situation in various countries, and there is no rational, objective explanation for the difference in attitude to erosion of the rule of law in Greece compared to other countries. The rule of law standards must be applied in a strictly equal, neutral and objective manner. As soon as we deviate from the single yardstick, we end up with Animal Farm: All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.
We have arrived at the point where it is highly likely that suspending EU funding under the Conditionality mechanism is justified, and possibly the first steps of the Article 7 procedure.
The Greek people deserve our support and protection of the rule of law. Let’s live up to our European values and stand by the Greek people. That is why I fought to have a plenary debate and resolution on Greece, and I’m very proud that – despite all the attempts to block that – this is now on the plenary agenda.
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