ATHENS – While Greece is mourning the deaths of 57 people in a head-on train collision, a European Parliament committee in the country to look into corruption and media freedom was criticized for coming during a sensitive time.
The EU lawmakers are on a rule of law committee and came for three days after another parliamentary group visited to investigate a surveillance and phone bugging scandal but was stonewalled by the New Democracy government.
New Transport Minister George Gerapetritis said the visit by the EU’s Committee on Civil Liberties (LIBE) was also “direct interference” into Greek affairs and called it “inappropriate” after the train disaster, said European Conservative.
The center-right European People’s Party – of which Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ party is a member – boycotted the trip as he was trying to deal with criticism over railway safety failures.
The parliamentary delegation is led by Dutch Renew MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld, and is joined by four other MEPs. She came with the spyware committee earlier and criticized the government for phone bugging and surveillance.
The delegation said its mission would be to also examine the role of the European Union border patrol Frontex in Greece as the government denied pushing back refugees and migrants.
The lawmakers said they would meet with LGBT activists and anti-corruption NGOs before conducting meetings with government officials, including the head of the Greek intelligence agency EYP which has bugged the phones of 15,475 people.
The committee is also expected to meet with anti-corruption prosecutor Eleni Touloupaki who was prosecuted for continuing to claim there was corruption involved in a previous government and bribes from the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis.
Beyond the word of several alleged whistleblowers and the major opposition SYRIZA that was in power then, no evidence emerged but Touloupaki was found innocent of interfering charges.