TROIKA EMAIL CONTRADICTS GREEK GOVERNMENT CLAIMS THAT NEW LAW WAS “OWN INITIATIVE”

An email obtained by UNFOLLOW magazine appears to contradict the Greek Government’s claims that their proposed bill regarding the Code of Lawyers in Greece is absolutely “their own initiative” and not a troika “demand”. According to the email, Mr Zenon Kontolemis, a troika-appointed “supervisor”, is addressing pressing requests to the Greek government for “revisions” in the bill, and threatens that, if Greek legislators fail to heed his demands, the sum of loan money Greece is expecting in October will not be disbursed.

“This is a Milestone for receiving the next tranche October, so it must be already finalized and adopted by the Parliament by end September” writes the troika to the Greek Government

During current discussions of the proposed law regarding the Code of Lawyers in the Standing Parliamentary Committee on Public Administration, Public Order and Justice, the Minister of Justice was asked whether there were pressures to implement specific changes to the bill or to speed up the process. The Minister replied that the bill was the Government’s initiative and that there was no “expediting factor”. This is of course in line with overall Government rhetoric that its “reforms” –a euphemism for austerity measures– are no longer dictated by the troika, but by Greece’s own need for “change”.

[Click to enlarge]

Troika email to the Greek Government [Click to enlarge]

Nevertheless, the email addressed by Mr Kontolemis to the Greek government contradicts the Justice Minister’s claims: it not only requests that “revisions” be made to the proposed bill, an issue of domestic policy, but it also reminds the government that they have already committed to making these changes in July, and it also demands the legislature’s swift actions, under the threat that the October payment will be withheld.

“We expect,” writes Mr Kontolemis, “the draft Code of Lawyers to be adopted as we have agreed it with the Authorities before Summer, including the above revisions, as soon as possible. In conclusion, we would like to recall that this is an end-July commitment which is already delayed. In addition, this is a Milestone for receiving the next tranche October, so it must be already finalized and adopted by the Parliament by end September”.

The email is addressed to, among others, Mr Dimitris Vartzopoulos, General Coordinator for the Greek Government, officials in both the Ministries of Justice and Finance, as well as officials in the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank.

The Minister of Justice shrugged the email off, saying that it was merely an exchange of “opinions”.

Yesterday, after UNFOLLOW magazine had published the email on its website the previous evening, during the deliberations of the Standing Committee, the Minister of Justice Mr Charalampos Athanassiou was challenged once again by Ms Zoe Konstantopoulou, a SYRIZA (Main Opposition) MP, on his alleged “independence” from the troika. He shrugged the email off, saying that it was merely an exchange of “opinions”, and failed to address the fact that in the email a demand is made of the Greek legislature, a distinct power in a democracy, as a condition for the payout of the next “tranche”.

The deliberations of the Committee were concluded among further protests: The President of the Committee asked for a vote despite the fact that the required number of Members of Parliament was not present. He proceeded to proclaim the vote valid, over the protests of Ms Konstantopoulou, although not even the two MPs out of the three present had voted. Ms Konstantopoulou said in a statement today that subsequently the minutes of the Committee were altered to conceal the illegality of the vote. A video of the proceedings, obtained by UNFOLLOW magazine, appears to confirm Ms Konstantopoulou’s claims. (Video in Greek posted here, soon to be subtitled.)

Throughout the years of the Greek crisis, those who insist that the various agreements with the troika –collectively dubbed “memoranda”– effectively mean a loss of sovereignty are systematically vilified. It does not matter that it is not only the nationalists or the extreme-right who voice such concerns– nor does it matter that, in any case, traditional political divides in Greece have been completely jumbled, with a pro-troika government made up of populist and nationalist rightists and far-rightists, together with socialist “modernizers” and centre-left former leftist “revisionists”. In fact, concerns over the loss of national sovereignty have been expressed by the moderate leftist opposition party SYRIZA, but these were also met with accusations of nothing less than “nationalism,” particularly by the centrist component of the coalition government.

The point of course that is being made by those fearful of the troika’s complete hold over Greek domestic policy is not about abstract national pride, but about the erosion of the democratic process, where citizens are no longer governed by those they have elected, and those who hold elected office are no longer bound by democratic accountability.

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NEW DEMOCRACY “TRUTH TEAM”: FORGERS WITH THE PRIME MINISTER’S APPROVAL

The New Democracy “Truth Team” made its appearance before the national elections of 2012. Its official mission is stated as “political analysis”. In reality, it is devoted to political propaganda on behalf of New Democracy, the main party in Greece’s government coalition, aiming at the defamation of the party’s rivals, systematically distorting facts and fabricating so-called “evidence”. Based at New Democracy party offices, and formed by close associates of the Prime Minister, the “Truth Team” enjoys his unequivocal support. Scarier still, a former participant in the team currently heads Greece’s National Intelligence Service.

Although there has been and there still is an attempt to present the “Truth Team”, as these people call themselves, as a group of New Democracy sympathisers with no formal relationship to the party, this is an ill-concealed lie: The “Truth Team” operates in the offices of the party and it was formed by very close associates of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, first among which is George Mouroutis, Head of the Press Office of the General Secretariat of the Prime Minister.

THE ADJUTANT Mr. MOUROUTIS

“Everyone else left. The only one who stayed was George Mouroutis”

When Antonis Samaras left New Democracy and founded his own party, Politiki Anixi (literally: Political Spring), in June 1993, among others who followed him was an unknown young man, named George Mouroutis. The very short lifespan of Politiki Anixi was an opportunity for George Mouroutis to find his life task. In the elections of 1996, Politiki Anixi failed to get into Parliament and, although it continued to nominally exist until 2004, it disappeared from the political map – along with its leader, Antonis Samaras.

“They had an office at that time in Patision Avenue, near the building of The General Workers Union of Greece”, says an interlocutor from the old circle of A. Samaras. “Everyone else left. The only one who stayed was Mouroutis”.

“What for?” we asked. “What did they do?”

“I don’t know” he replied. “Maybe they were just massaging each other psychologically. There was no political activity, there was nothing. They were saying to each other that they will come back into the political arena. That’s all.”

Everyone who knows the environment of Samaras – which was never particularly large – has the same story to tell: Everyone left and the only one stayed was G. Mouroutis. All this period between the failure of Politiki Anixi and the return of Samaras to New Democracy in 2004, George Mouroutis remained at his side, even without a specific job.

“It was impossible for a piece of information to arrive to the Minister, if Mouroutis didn’t want it to”

Beyond his capacity as a “psychological masseur”, G. Mouroutis took on more tasks after 2004. Since then and until 2007, he was spokesperson for Antonis Samaras through his stint as MEP. In 2009 Samaras was appointed Minister of Culture in the last months of the government of Costas Karamanlis. George Mouroutis followed him there, too. Those who got to know him in the Ministry got a glimpse of the way he conceived of his position: “It was impossible for a piece of information to arrive to the Minister, if Mouroutis didn’t want it to” he says. During the same period, however, G. Mouroutis appeared as a member of the executive board of OPAP, the state owned sports gampling company (February-November 2009), and then as a member of the executive board of another company that belonged to OPAP, OPAP Services (until December 2009). In June 2012, the newly elected Prime Minister Antonis Samaras appointed G. Mouroutis as Head of the Press Office of the General Secretariat of the Prime Minister.

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