ATHENS – New Democracy’s newly-appointed Agriculture Minister Makis Voridis, who had belonged to the far-right LAOS party before joining the Conservatives, rejected charges from the Central Board of Jewish Communities (KIS) that he is anti-Semitic.
“I have never been an anti-Semite. I have however served for many years in political parties and organizations in the nationalist flank and I have politically coexisted with people who held unacceptable ideas of this sort,” said Voridis, according to Kathimerini.
“I denounce any action, omission or tolerance to any action by a third party that could be interpreted as anti-Semitic or neo-Nazi,” he added.
Voridis admitted in a statement, however, that as a “nationalist” he had “coexisted politically with people who had such unacceptable ideas,” said Agence France Presse (AFP) in a report on the flap.
Speaking on News24/7 radio, KIS Secretary-General Victor Eliezer said that Greece’s Jewish community was not “particularly happy” with Voridis’ appointment in the new cabinet.
“There is a dark past and we publicly urge him to his renounce his anti-Semitic past,” he said.
“Until today, he has never publicly renounced the Nazi ideas he represented, and the political alliances he kept,” Eliezer said.
That came after an unnamed Israeli diplomat recently told The Jerusalem Post that his country won’t work with Voridis because of what was called his anti-Semitic past.
Voridis, 54, was leader of the EPEN (National Political Union) youth group founded in the early 1980s by Greece’s jailed dictator Georgios Papadopoulos who ruled with a iron fist during a dictatorship of military Colonels from 1967-74.
In the 1990s, Voridis founded a now-defunct ultra-nationalist party affiliated with Jean-Marie Le Pen’s far-right National Front in France.
In the mid-1990s, Voridis founded the nationalist Hellenic Front (Elliniko Metopo), a party absorbed by Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) in 2005 that was led by a noted anti-Semite, George Karatzaferis.
Voridis, who became minister in a 2011 coalition government under New Democracy that included LAOS, jumped to New Democracy in 2012 as his former party fell out of favor and Parliament, the switch allowing him to stay in power as a Conservative.
He is one of at least three former prominent members of the far-right LAOS party to be given posts in the ruling New Democracy party.
Another former LAOS lawmaker, 46-year-old Adonis Georgiadis, is the new minister in charge of development and investment. A TV book salesman, Georgiadis had to apologize publicly in 2017 for energetically promoting an anti-Semitic book on his shows.
That was written by provocative lawyer Costas Plevris, a Greek far-right icon whose son Thanos was also elected to Parliament with New Democracy last week.
Eliezer said Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was pro-Israel, leaving unanswered the question of why the party has prominent members whose past statements indicate that they are not.
Greek relations with Israel were first formalized in 1990 under Mitsotakis’s late father Constantine, who was Premier from 1990-1993 and who was the first Greek leader to go to Israel on official business.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement that appeared to acknowledge the accusations of anti-Semitism against Voridis.
“We are studying the composition of the new government in Greece, especially the appointment of one of the ministers known for his racist and anti-Semitic views, and examining the significance of this appointment,” the statement added without naming Voridis or any other minister or lawmaker by name.