May 19. 2024. 2:15

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EU Parliament to discuss ‘erosion’ of Greek rule of law


A heated debate is expected on Wednesday in the European Parliament plenary, as EU lawmakers will hold a discussion entitled “The erosion of the rule of law in Greece. The wiretapping scandal and the freedom of the press”. Speaking to EURACTIV, EU Parliament sources predict that the progressive political groups will lash out at the Greek conservative government.

The initiative for this debate was taken by the Socialist and Democrats (S&D) at a meeting with the heads of all political groups last week.

The groups of S&D, the Greens, centrist Renew Europe and the EU Left are expected to attack the Greek government over the topic, while the European People’s Party (EPP) which the ruling New Democracy party is affiliated with, will try to defend them.

EURACTIV was informed that on behalf of the EPP, Evangelos Meimarakis, the head of New Democracy delegation will speak. Meimarakis, considered a moderate centre-right politician, has so far remained silent over the wiretapping case.

Giorgos Kyrtsos, a Renew Europe MEP who has been a victim of the wiretapping scandal, recently told EURACTIV Greece that Meimarakis keeps his distance from the case as he “refuses to get his hands dirty”.

An EU parliament source told EURACTIV that Meimarakis was under pressure from the party headquarters in Athens to take the lead in today’s debate.

Greek politics has been shaken by “Greek Watergate”, a wiretapping scandal according to which secret services bugged several politicians, businessmen and journalists’ phones.

Moreover, the situation of the rule of law in Greece has raised eyebrows in Brussels as, according to the World Press Freedom Index for 2022, Greece fell from number 70 in 2021 to 108, the worst position out of all EU members. The still-unsolved murder of an investigative journalist has also tarnished the country’s reputation.

Both issues have created a toxic atmosphere, with the EU Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry investigating the use of Pegasus and equivalent surveillance spyware (PEGA) insisting that the scandal should be sorted out before the next elections due by summer.

“The way the Greek authorities are handling the clarification of the matter is an alarm signal that the country is already on an advanced path towards an autocratic state,” S&D MEP Hannes Heide told EURACTIV last month.

For its part, the Greek government denies involvement in the wiretapping scandal and has said some “dirty” networks within the secret services were carrying out these activities.

However, since he came to power, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has had secret services under his personal control.

Last but not least, the European Commission will be represented in the debate by Virginijus Sinkevičius, the EU commissioner for the Environment. A source from the Greek opposition told EURACTIV that the executive’s leadership aims to “downplay” the importance of the debate with such a representation considering the irrelevance of Sinkevičius’ portfolio with the matter.

(Sarantis Michalopoulos | EURACTIV.com)