The leader of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), Manfred Weber, is providing political cover to Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis over the so-called “Greek Watergate”, Renew Europe MEP Georgios Kyrtsos told EURACTIV in an interview.
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Kyrtsos was previously a member of the current ruling New Democracy party in Greece and the EPP. After criticising Mitsotakis over the rule of law and media freedom, he was expelled from New Democracy, and his EPP membership was suspended for one year.
However, in February, he resigned from the EPP and joined the centrist Renew Europe group in the EU Parliament.
“Weber is white-washing Mitsotakis on the wiretapping scandal,” Kyrtsos told EURACTIV.
The Greek MEP described an “outrageous” situation considering that the wiretapping scandal saw opposition politicians, journalists and businessmen, the leader of the socialist party and MEP Nikos Androulakis under surveillance.
>> Read more about the scandal here
“If Weber does not limit himself to a minimum European framework, then we have a comprehension problem not only in Greece but also in the EU”, Kyrtsos said, adding that Weber has been playing “a role” on behalf of Mitsotakis in a number of matters.
The MEP said Mitsotakis asked Manfred Weber to oust him from the EPP at a dinner in Greece, with Weber allegedly saying, “He is a party leader – I must satisfy him.”
“On the other hand, he admitted that I’ve been an MEP for eight years and I am competent. He, therefore, found a middle solution: punishing me for one year instead of removing me entirely,” Kyrtsos said.
“Since then, Mitsotakis’ son was hired in the office of the Vice President of the EPP. Thanasis Bakolas, an unknown associate of Mitsotakis, was made the secretary of the EPP in a conference in which the ‘unknown’ Bakolas got 87% of the votes,” he added.
Kyrtsos, who knows New Democracy politics inside out, stressed that the party is in turmoil following the revelation of the scandal.
“Former prime minister Kostas Karamanlis has asked to shed light on the scandal, while Mitsotakis is trying to sweep it under the carpet. The chief of the New Democracy EU Parliament delegation, Vangelis Meimarakis, who has a tradition and history behind him, refuses to get his hands dirty defending the government,” he said.
Kyrtsos insisted that no “reasonable person” could doubt that Mitsotakis was the mastermind of the wiretap scandal.
“Because when he became Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis changed the rules and took the Greek secret services under his personal and political control”, he said.
“Then, he hired his nephew Grigoris Dimitriadis as his secretary general – he was the regime’s number two. So, together they created this system, they also changed the legislation so that they are not accountable to anyone, and then they set up the surveillance,” he added.
EPP pressures MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld
Earlier this week, Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld, the rapporteur of the PEGA committee, made public a draft report on the scandal, hinting that there has been government involvement in the illegal Predator spyware.
According to Kyrtsos, the EPP will “definitely” pressure her to water down the final report, and these efforts will be in vain.
“She is experienced. She will be pressured, sure, but I warn them that she is the wrong person to pressure; the more you pressure her, the more action and reaction you will get,” he said.
“I think the draft of the PEGA [surveillance spyware] committee is not going to change in its main points,” he added.
After the publication of the draft report, New Democracy MEP Anna-Michelle Assimakopoulou issued a statement saying a “mini parliamentary coup d’etat” took place.
“PEGA committee rapporteur, Sophie In t’Veld, in a ‘mini parliamentary coup d’etat’, held a press conference presenting her accusations entitled ‘me, myself and I’, with complete disregard to the opinions of her colleagues and standard parliamentary procedure,” Asimakopoulou said.
For his part, Kyrtsos claims that Asimakopoulou was appointed as spokesperson of New Democracy EU parliament group to play the “dirty” role against him personally in his dispute with the EPP and now against Sophie in ‘t Veld.
“According to my information which is not 100% confirmed but has quite good sources, she got promised by Mitsotakis’ nephew and secretary, Grigoris Dimitriadis [who resigned after the surveillance revelations], that they would promote her to the next Commissioner of Greece in the EU”, Kyrtsos said.
“But I told her that she was mistakenly messing around on behalf of Mitsotakis because when the next candidates will not be appointed by Mitsotakis as he will not be a prime minister”, he added.
Commissioner Schinas’ silence
Asked about the European Commission’s stance on the matter, he replied that Commissioners Vera Jourova and Didier Reynders have spoken up, but Greek Commissioner Margaritis Schinas has so far remained silent.
“Margaritis Schinas should have spoken; he did not speak although he is responsible for the European way of life; it seems, in his perception, the European way of life includes wiretapping. And on this, we have a radical disagreement,” Kyrtsos said.
“He is insufficient in his role of protecting the genuine European way of life, the rule of law and human and democratic rights”, he concluded.
(Sarantis Michalopoulos | EURACTIV.com)