ATHENS – Noted Greek-American scientists Stamatios Krimigis has taken some parting shots at ruling Radical Left SYRIZA officials after he quit the Hellenic Space Agency because of what he called political interference – and as its Managing Director, Constantinos Pilaftsis has also walked away.
Krimigis, a former NASA scientist and head emeritus of the Space Department Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, gave up his post after indicating he was fed up with Telecommunications Minister Nikos Pappas trying to use the new agency to benefit the faltering SYRIZA.
His departure has set off a tempest, with the major rival New Democracy calling on Pappas, a former State Minister who worked for Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in trying to control private TV station licenses, to quit.
In his resignation letter, Krimigis, accused Pappas of making decisions that effectively annulled the HSA’s entire purpose and made it prone to political subservience instead of creating a meritocracy, a practice at odds with the Greek system of rewarding friends even if they aren’t qualified.
Krimigis said there was “an effort to manipulate HSA toward specific goals,” and also ripped the General Secretary for Telecommunications, Vassilis Manglaras who had accused the scientist of showing up for meetings only twice.
Krimigis, who had called Manglaras a “space czar,” said the secretary had a “selective memory” of events as the row got worse and set off debates about SYRIZA’s competence to govern.
Krimigis said that the board of directors met on three occasions, in sessions lasting seven hours each and added that, “It is obvious that the board and myself spent a lot time on understanding the founding charter, the law and the ministerial decision (establishing the agency,) which was only made public on March 15,” Kathimerini said.
“After the second meeting, the board, having seen that… we were at an impasse, authorized the Chairman and CEO to meet with Mr. Manglaras to discuss the issues, which the General Secretary refused to do. Instead, in violation of all rules and ethics, he asked for a meeting with the board in which I would not be present, and which took place unofficially with just four of the seven members after three refused to take part,” added Krimigis.
“The minister was cognizant of all this,” he added, an act he said was unacceptable although common in Greek politics to cut out critics and keep control. Krimigis said Manglaras had tried to undercut his position, typical of the country’s internecine and cutthroat politics.
Manglaras had accused Krimigis of “coming into work just twice and not spending a minute to understand the responsibilities of the ministry and the organization.”
Pappas dismissed Krimigis’ departure as insignificant, saying that “there are other Greek scientists abroad,” without asking if any would come given what happened to the renowned former NASA investigator.
Krimigis said “everything that was said at the board’s meetings is on the record and he (Pappas) can read it to see what he said or neglected to say.”
Pappas then picked Christodoulos Protopapas, former Chairman of the European Satellite Operators Association, as Krimigis’ replacement.
In a past Facebook post, Protopapas went on a nationalistic rant, attacking Greece’s European partners. “When we (the Greeks) were building temples and wrote tragedies and comedies you (Europeans) lived in the mud, ate raw meat, were unbathed and spoke in inarticulate grunts,” he said.
In a statement New Democracy said the post was a “characteristic sample” of the language used by Protopapas in public.