EU Corruption Report Says Greece Not There Yet

FILE - Greece’s lawmakers voted and approved a probe into an alleged scandal in which prosecutors allege that 10 politicians took bribes from the pharmaceutical company Novartis. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Yorgos Kontarinis)

The Council of Europe said Greek political party financing needs more transparency as how money is spent isn’t accounted for, including that from taxpayer subsidies. COE also said more efforts needed to stop corruption by lawmakers and judges

In two reports, COE’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) mixed praise with criticism about the long-time failed effort to battle corruption in the legislative and judicial branches of government in a society which has condoned the problem across the board.

The ruling Radical Left SYRIZA, the latest to falter in trying to defeat corruption, with the country’s record barely changing, has pushed a probe of 10 political rivals it said are tied to an alleged scandal tied to the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis and that another has emerged with the German rail firm Deutsche Bahn over Greece’s metro system.

One of the two reports which deals with corruption prevention with lawmakers, judges and prosecutors said that only six of 19 previous recommendations have been “dealt with in a satisfactory manner,” but lauded lauded a code of conduct for Members of Parliament.

That deals with rules relating to conflict of interest and gifts, among others, and includes a supervision and enforcement mechanism by a parliamentary ethics committee and with a range of possible sanctions.

GRECO also commended increased transparency and a broadened scope for declaration of wealth assets,  income and interests, which would remain online until three years after the end an MP leaves office.

The group took another look at Greece’s compliance with a specific recommendation on the transparency of party financing, concerned there was a “clear reversal” over anonymous contributions to political parties.

That previous recommendation had permitted coupon-based donations only if they systematically indicated names and tax identification numbers or identity card numbers of donors.

SYRIZA has removed a ban on anonymous donations, reneging on transparency pledges and now lets some anonymity go along with giving money to political parties, especially in fund-raising.

Now the government said that German officials have sent evidence charging state officials under the former ruling New Democracy Conservatives and then-PASOK Socialists took bribes from the rail firm Deutsche Bahn.

Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said it implicates SYRIZA’s political rivals in another scandal, this one charging that the unnamed officials took money from the German firm involving contracts for construction work on the Athens metro from 2003-07.

Around 370,000 euros ($455,784) was paid in bribes, media reports said. Deutsche Bahn was part of a consortium with Thales, Lahmeyer and OMEK to contracted to supervise rail works for the Athens subway system..

Tzanakopoulos said New Democracy and PASOK, now folded into a new center-left party the Movement for Change, had ruined Greece.

SYRIZA said it has not been involved in any wrongdoing since it took power in 2015 although the major opposition New Democracy wants three of its ministers probed for breach of duty.