EPP chief fails to convince that Greece’s rule of law not an EU issue
The leader of the European People’s Party (EPP), Manfred Weber, said on Wednesday that the rule of Law in Greece is a national matter and not a European issue to be discussed in the European Parliament, triggering a strong reaction from other political groups.
The situation of the rule of law in Greece was back on the EU Parliament agenda after the Greens proposed discussing it for the second time at the plenary session with the aim of voting on a resolution in April.
The Greens, supported by the EU Left, the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), and centrist Renew Europe, passed their proposal with 237 votes in favour and 172 against.
The EPP, which Greece’s ruling New Democracy party belongs to, tried to block the debate at the plenary on Thursday, saying it is a national and not a European matter.
“The European Parliament becomes a platform for national debates […] We cannot continue like this,” EPP chief Weber said.
Weber emphasised that the EU Parliament should instead focus on purely European issues and called on EU lawmakers to “keep in mind” that Greece will hold elections in six weeks.
A heated debate already took place last month after a European Parliament mission in Greece (LIBE committee) concluded that the rule of law in Greece faces ‘very serious threats’.
“Although Greece has a solid institutional and legal framework, vibrant civil society and independent media, the delegation notes that there are very serious threats to the rule of law and fundamental rights”, the mission’s chief, centrist MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld from centrist Renew Europe, said on 8 March.
The EU Parliament has particularly raised concerns about judicial independence, press freedom, and a wiretapping scandal involving the Greek secret services.
Greek secret services bugged the phones of two Greek MEPs as part of the so-called “Greek Watergate” scandal.
One of them is socialist MEP and leader of the Greek socialist party (Pasok) Nikos Androulakis; the other is Giorgos Kyrtsos, a former EPP lawmaker currently a member of Renew Europe.
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Main opposition Syriza MEP Stelios Kouloglou slammed Weber over his statements.
“Two of our colleagues here were victims of surveillance, and we were all talking with them. Mr. Kyrtsos was one of them, and he was in your party in the past. You were talking to him. So, the Greek secret services were also listening to you. Don’t you worry about it?” Kouloglou said.
When Hungary’s rule of law was an EU issue
The debate over the rule of law in Greece causes headaches to the EPP, which has been trying to sweep the issue under the carpet for months.
It also contradicts the EPP stance in the past on the rule of law in Hungary. Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party left the EPP group in March 2021 after centre-right lawmakers changed the group’s internal rules to establish a rule of law mechanism.
“I promised it during the election campaign to establish such an independent rule of law mechanism because the rule of law is fundamental for the European Union,” Weber said back then.
The matter also causes headaches for Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis as it destroys his liberal reformist profile just before the national elections in which he is facing a neck-and-neck race with leftist Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras.
(Sarantis Michalopoulos | EURACTIV.com)