ATHENS – The Hatfield vs. McCoy feud between Defense Minister Panos Kammenos and former Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias is heating up, with US-Hungarian billionaire George Soros’ name being dragged into the fray.
Kammenos, leader of the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) who are junior partners in the government led by the Radical Left SYRIZA, to which Kotzias belongs, repeated his denial of charges by Kotzias that the Defense Minister weirdly told a Cabinet meeting that Soros is financing the government without offering any proof or reason why.
Kotzias, a close ally of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, quit in a huff when the Premier backed Kammenos, the ideological enemy of SYRIA, with the government needing ANEL’s seven votes in Parliament to have a scant three-vote majority in Parliament.
Tsipras has essentially given Kammenos, the government’s loose cannon, free rein to say what he wants without rebuke even though the Defense Minister said he would yank his party out of the coalition if a deal that Tsipras and Kotzias made to rename the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) comes to a vote in the Greek Parliament, expected to be in March, 2019.
In response to a question in Parliament by New Democracy MP Yiannis Kefaloyiannis, Kammenos said that the claim by Kotzias on Kriti TV was taken up by the former ruling establishment – linked to ND and PASOK – in order to distract the public’s attention from the recent jailing of former socialist minister Yiannos Papantoniou on corruption charges, said Kathimerini.
“Since these (allegations) have come under the scrutiny of Parliament I want to repeat and stress that I never said the government has received money from George Soros,” Kammenos said.
He said he only referred to Soros being linked to a company that the Foreign Ministry does business with and “which has nothing to do with the government,” even though the Foreign Ministry is part of the government.
“I refer you to the statements made by those at the cabinet meeting and I remind you that minutes are taken at all cabinet meetings,” said Kammenos.
Kefaloyiannis mocked Kammenos for presenting Kotzias as a liar and then “informing us that the Foreign Ministry does not belong to the government.”
Kotzias told Kriti TV that as the Cabinet meeting was winding down that Tsipras was interrupted by Kammenos who “unleashed a sewer of slander,” while the Premier sat on his hands and did nothing about it, prompting Kotzias to write a long letter of resignation and step down.
“He did not just talk about secret funds. He said that Soros is financing the Greek government to bribe foreigners,” he said.