EventsEventsPodcasts
Loader
Find Us
ADVERTISEMENT

Euroviews. Greek PM Mitsotakis' wiretapping admission begs the question — are there further government secrets?

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in a news conference, in Athens, January 2023
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in a news conference, in Athens, January 2023 Copyright AP Photo/Euronews
Copyright AP Photo/Euronews
By Georgios Samaras, Assistant Professor, King's College London
Published on Updated
Share this articleComments
Share this articleClose Button
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

The upcoming election provides an opportunity for Greeks to demand a government that respects their fundamental rights and values their privacy, Dr Georgios Samaras writes.

ADVERTISEMENT

Greek society has been rocked by a scandal involving an unprecedented number of phone taps over the past year, which appears to be one of the most significant departures from the rule of law in the country's modern history.

Ahead of legislative elections, the scandal has once again reached boiling point.

During the official debate between Greek political leaders on 10 May, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis shocked everyone by admitting that he knew the reason behind opposition leader Nikos Androulakis' surveillance. 

However, he did not provide any further details, only stating that Androulakis, the leader of the centre-left PASOK party, was not a "national threat". 

Until last week, Mitsotakis claimed he had no knowledge that Androulakis had been targeted. "When I was informed of it, I didn't hesitate to admit that it was wrong," he said in a televised speech as the story that first emerged in the spring of 2021 gained traction abroad last year.

This latest statement, however, has raised serious questions about Mitsotakis' explanations until now, and some might wonder whether he was being ignorant or apathetic. Also, in some other countries, such remarks could have resulted in immediate legal action.

A serious problem either way

Mitsotakis considered the matter closed after his nephew and top aide, Grigoris Dimitriadis, stepped down due to his connections to Predator — a mobile phone hacking spyware said to have been used by the Greek authorities in the wiretapping.

The software, believed to have been developed in neighbouring North Macedonia, can access everything on a target's phone, including messages, photos, and passwoords, while it can also take control of the phone's camera and microphone, allowing it to be turned into a 24/7 surveillance tool. 

Members of the European Parliament participating in the PEGA inquiry committee have spent over a year looking into the use of Pegasus and equivalent spyware. 

The publication of the committee's findings on 8 May 2023 confirmed that Predator was used against politicians, journalists, and citizens and that the Greek government led by New Democracy had even exported the technology to other countries, such as Madagascar and Sudan.

'If he was aware of it, then we have a very serious problem. If he was not aware, then that is also a serious problem, because he should have been.'
Dutch MEP Sophie in 't Veld (Renew)
European Union 2022
Dutch MEP Sophie in 't Veld presented the draft version of the spyware report in Brussels, November 2022European Union 2022

During PEGA’s press briefing, chair Jeroen Lenaers (EPP) and rapporteur Sophie in 't Veld (Renew) strongly condemned the use of Predator in Greece. This marks the committee's first serious alert on the threat to democracy, which underscores an urgent need for action.

In 't Veld was questioned about the possible connections between Mitsotakis and the use of Predator. 

In her scathing response, she stated, "If he was aware of it, then we have a very serious problem. If he was not aware, then that is also a serious problem, because he should have been." 

Well, the question has now been answered, and it leads to the conclusion that Mitsotakis knew yet still chose to hide the truth from the Greek public.

Who are the victims of New Democracy's dark arts?

PEGA’s findings fully contradict the government's statements until now, which had dismissed allegations of either using or exporting it. 

Greek officials have yet to provide a satisfactory explanation for their use of Predator to conduct surveillance on citizens. 

Those affected by the illegal practices have been left in the dark, and it is unclear whether this violation of privacy will persist under a new administration.

The use of illegal spyware is not limited to high-profile individuals but can also affect ordinary citizens.
AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris
Pigeons fly as people walk on the beach in the Paleo Faliro suburb of southern Athens, 28 December 2022AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris

Nikos Androulakis, the leader of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, is among those who have been targeted by the surveillance measures. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Similarly, Thanasis Koukakis, a financial reporter, was targeted by Predator but has been unable to obtain any information about the extent of the surveillance. 

Another victim is Artemis Seaford, a former security policy manager at Meta. Her mobile phone had been hacked in September 2021 for at least two months. 

These cases demonstrate that the use of illegal spyware is not limited to high-profile individuals but can also affect ordinary citizens.

Trying to conceal the scandal has further worsened Greece's political climate

Amid the Covid pandemic in March 2021, the Greek government quietly passed new legislation that made it impossible for individuals under government surveillance for national security reasons to obtain information about the surveillance or seek a remedy. 

In response to the widespread public outcry, the government introduced an amendment in late 2022 aimed at providing individuals with information about their surveillance three years after its completion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Recent polls even suggest that Mitsotakis' popularity is on the rise, as most Greeks appear unconcerned about the revelations.
AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris
Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis speaks with his party lawmakers during a parliamentary debate on a motion of censure in Athens, January 2023AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris

The 21 May national election in Greece is taking place amid a highly polarised political climate, which has been exacerbated by the government's efforts to conceal a major scandal and its aftermath.

Despite the recent revelations and the opposition's calls for the government to come clean, Mitsotakis has managed to weather the storm, survive a no-confidence vote in January 2023, and is currently projected to win the election. 

Recent polls even suggest that Mitsotakis' popularity is on the rise, as most Greeks appear unconcerned about the revelations.

Will the Greek voters punish Mitsotakis?

If New Democracy and PM Mitsotakis retain power, will state surveillance persist? 

Nobody knows, but Predator is a tool against democracy, while the use and export of such technology to developing countries are serious violations of international law and human rights. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The Greek government must be held accountable for its actions and provide transparency and accountability to its citizens. 

The upcoming election provides an opportunity for Greeks to demand a government that respects their fundamental rights and values their privacy.
AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis
Greece's PM and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, under the Greek flag, speaks to his supporters during his election campaign in northern Athens, 1 May 2023AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis

The upcoming election provides an opportunity for Greeks to demand a government that respects their fundamental rights and values their privacy. 

And now, the question of whether Mitsotakis will be punished for his year-long deception will be answered in a matter of days.

Dr Georgios Samaras is an Assistant Professor of Political Economy at the Department of Political Economy at King’s College London.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at view@euronews.com to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

ADVERTISEMENT
Share this articleComments

You might also like

Party leaders in Greece make final pitches to voters ahead of European Parliament elections

Greek moderate conservatives set to win in European elections

Greek prime minister announces party candidates for EU elections