GR US

Foreign Ministry Draft Bill Voted in Greek Parliament Under Strong Objections

Ευρωκίνηση

Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias in Greek Parliament, Feb. 26, 2021. (EUROKINISSI/Yorgos Kontarinis)

ATHENS - A draft bill on the restructuring of the Foreign Affairs ministry was approved in Parliament's plenary on Friday, following legislative amendments by Minister Nikos Dendias and a 12-hour discussion.

A main point by the opposition related to the insurance coverage of diplomats working abroad (except the EU), which will be included in the ministry's budget. A new regulation calls for specific "terms and conditions to grant medical and hospital care for staff of the Foreign ministry." Diplomats and family members serving beyond the EU will be allowed to take out private insurance if their assigned country provides only private insurance options or their existing public health system is neither reliable nor accessible to staff.

The draft bill, which also includes provisions on the Council of Overseas Greeks, international development collaborations and humanitarian help, was supported by ruling New Democracy party and voted down by the opposition as unsatisfactory.

Opposition parties called for further changes to the original bill, including raising retirement age from 65 to 67, and establishing a national security council. Main opposition SYRIZA MP Giorgos Katrougalos, former Foreign minister, said it was detrimental to the purpose of the ministry, weakened the country's national strategic planning and downgraded diplomatic offices abroad as well as the diplomats themselves.

Other objections related to the percentage of health coverage provided, budgetary cuts, and the dissolution of the translation service, among other issues.