ATHENS – Stepping up the bitter feud between two former allies – from different parties – Greece’s former defense minister Panos Kammenos said he would soon present evidence to incriminate former foreign minister Nikos Kotzias but didn’t say what it was.
Kammenos is leader of the tiny, pro-austerity, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) who were junior partners in the coalition led by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ Radical Left SYRIZA, of which Kotzias is a member.
Kammenos and Kotzias – whom Kammenos had called “the greatest foreign minister Greece ever had” – fell out when the former finance chief pushed a deal that has seen The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) renamed as North Macedonia.
That gave away the name of an ancient abutting Greek province and led Kammenos to pull his party from the government, which has a minority in Parliament and is staying in power with votes from alleged independents and former rivals who quit their parties, which are unlikely to return to Parliament in elections this year, so they could gain favor with Tsipras.
Ironically, Tsipras backed Kammenos in a Cabinet meeting during a clash over the FYROM question, leading Kotzias to quit his post and say he had been betrayed by the Premier, although they remain close.
That meeting saw Kotzias and Kammenos swap accusations over alleged mishandling of secret slush fund monies in the foreign ministry and with Kammenos then in charge of 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion) in European Union subsidies for refugee and migrant camps that human rights groups said were abysmal and no accounting of where the money went.
Kammenos told Antenna TV he would bring proof of wrongdoing against Kotzias, although the former defense chief has a history of making wild charges without naming anyone or proceeding.
He also said he did all he could to block the FYROM name deal although he did little to stop it while it was being negotiated. He said there were SYRIZA officials who used the name deal because they were upset Communists and the Left lost a civil war after WWII.
With ANEL being the polar opposite and otherwise ideological enemy of SYRIZA, he defended his decision to join a coalition – which put him in power despite having received only 4.8 percent of the vote in the January, 2105 elections and 3.7 percent in September, 2015 snap polls, losing more than 93,000 votes.
ANEL’s cooperation with SYRIZA over the past four years was a “conscious choice” to get the country out of international bailout status and bring stability, he said, without mentioning he campaigned against the rescue packages – as did Tsipras – before both reneged to stay together in power as an odd couple team.