MEPs voice alarm over rule-of-law decline in Greece, demand closer oversight of EU funds

Members of the European Parliament expressed alarm over the rule-of-law deterioration in Greece.
Members of the European Parliament expressed alarm over the rule-of-law deterioration in Greece. Copyright Markus Schreiber/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Markus Schreiber/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
By Euronews
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Members of the European Parliament approved on Wednesday a critical resolution about the "worrying" decline of the rule of law in Greece, pointing the finger at Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.


The non-binding text details a string of concerns about the current state of Greek democracy, including harassment of journalists, privacy violations, wiretapping of political opponents, excessive use of police force, conflicts of interests, alleged corruption, smear campaigns against civil society and the "systematic" pushbacks of migrants.

Notably, MEPs ask the European Commission to assess whether the breaches of fundamental rights are grave enough to merit the review – and possible suspension – of the billions of euros in EU funds allocated to Greece. 

Some of the accusations, like what MEPs describe as the "instrumentalisation" of national security reasons to justify the use of spyware, directly involve Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the right-wing politician who has served as Greece's prime minister since 2019.

With an unassailable governing majority, Mitsotakis has become the target of intense criticism from human rights and media organisations over democratic backsliding that, in their view, has worsened under his premiership. 

Greece is the lowest-ranking EU country in the World Press Freedom Index curated by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), with an abysmal score of 55.2 points, considerably worse than Hungary (62.96), Bulgaria (62.98) and Poland (67.66).

One of the reasons behind the ranking is the 2022 scandal known as Predatorgate, where cabinet members, political opponents and journalists were subject to prolonged surveillance. The scandal exposed Mitsotakis, who personally controls the Greek National Intelligence Service, to international censure but failed to dampen his electoral standing.

In their resolution, MEPs denounce at length the "illicit" use of spyware, demand an "unhindered" investigation and call for legislative changes to reverse the trend.

The text was supported by a coalition of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), the liberals of Renew Europe, the Greens and the Left, amassing 330 votes in favour and 254 against.

The centre-right European People's Party (EPP), to which Mitsotakis belongs, tried to fend off the rebuke by tabling a counter-resolution that eschews the most controversial issues and instead highlights the legislative progress made by Athens.

"The Greek people do not believe in this story, we know that Greece is a democracy. Yes, we have problems, just like all the other member states (...) but we're dealing with them," Anna-Michelle Asimakopoulou, a Greek MEP who sits with the EPP, told Euronews. "So, Parliament should be more careful when it cries wolf on rule of law issues."

The EPP's push to defend one of its highest-profile representatives fell short as progressives closed ranks to endorse the critical version of the resolution.

Sophie in 't Veld, a liberal MEP from the Netherlands, accused EU leaders of applying double standards that, on the one hand, protect Mitsotakis and Italy's Giorgia Meloni while, on the other, attack Hungary's Viktor Orbán.

"f you are a good boy or a good girl, like Mitsotakis or Meloni or others, then they leave you alone. Then you can do what you want at home. You can attack and undermine the rule of law as much as you like. You know, the European Commission, the European Council will say nothing," she told Euronews. "If you are a troublemaker like Orbán, they will become much more critical and then they will no longer tolerate it."

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