Greece

   

Executive Accountability

#25
Key Findings
With a mixed oversight record, Greece falls into the lower-middle ranks internationally (rank 25) with regard to executive accountability. Its score on this measure marks a gain of 0.6 points relative to 2014.

The parliament has robust formal oversight powers, and members have adequate resources. The independent audit office’s powers to review specific agencies have been enhanced. The ombuds office has been an active defender of migrant and refugee rights.

A general tendency toward more inclusiveness and openness is evident across parties. Citizens are not well-informed about government policies due to the predominance of partisan or infotainment-focused reporting. Wealthy media owners are using the crisis to consolidate and extend their power, while the government has tightened control over the state-owned media.

The government has sought to mend relations with the business sector. The receding of the welfare state has prompted greater civil-society engagement, encouraging volunteers and organizations to become more active in providing social services to the needy.

Citizens’ Participatory Competence

#32

To what extent are citizens informed of government policymaking?

10
 9

Most citizens are well-informed of a broad range of government policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many citizens are well-informed of individual government policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few citizens are well-informed of government policies; most citizens have only a rudimental knowledge of policies.
 2
 1

Most citizens are not aware of government policies.
Policy Knowledge
5
Citizens do not really obtain enough information on government policymaking, as the media is strongly partisan or leans toward infotainment, while individual members of parliament rarely discuss substantive policy issues with voters in the electoral districts which they represent.

In Greece, there is a tradition of appealing to government ministers or members of parliament in order to obtain favors, such as facilitating the hiring of a family member in the public sector. After 2010, owing to the depletion of state funds this tradition was somewhat curbed, but the tendency to forge patronage relations has not been adequately tackled. Political parties continue to staff ministerial cabinets, boards of directors of public entities and the lower echelons of public bureaucracy with their supporters where possible. Voters, on the other hand, welcome this practice.

Most citizens are not well informed about government policies. Those who are, however, voice policy opinions in several ways. For example, citizens can participate in the open electronic consultation on new government measures, which each ministry must announce and manage before drafting a bill. On the other hand, there is a strong tradition of organized interest groups voicing opinions on policy matters relevant to their interest areas.

In the period under review, despite some improvements in unemployment and economic growth, the economic crisis continued. However, income tax rates and social security contributions were raised to historically high levels. In this context, political participation in decision-making did not improve, although citizens acquired a more precise view of Greece’s constraints and options.

Citations:
The Ministry of Interior reports turnout in elections. The relevant percentage figures are available at the Ministry’s http://ekloges.ypes.gr/current/v/public/index.html#“cls”:”main,””params”:. Accessed on 03.11.2015.

Legislative Actors’ Resources

#15

Do members of parliament have adequate personnel and structural resources to monitor government activity effectively?

10
 9

The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for monitoring all government activity effectively.
 8
 7
 6


The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for monitoring a government’s major activities.
 5
 4
 3


The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for selectively monitoring some government activities.
 2
 1

The resources provided to the members of parliament are not suited for any effective monitoring of the government.
Parliamentary Resources
7
Members of the Greek parliament are granted full access to the well-resourced library of the parliament. They are also entitled to hire two scientific advisers who are paid out of the parliament’s budget. However, many members of parliament hire family members or friends who, in effect, do administrative and secretarial rather than research work. This practice was continued in the period under review. Nevertheless, each party represented in parliament has its own scientific support group that is funded by the state budget.

Nowadays, updated academic advice is available also through two other institutions. The first is the Office of the Budget, a policy-oriented committee of university professors with economic expertise who work independently of the government. They have published policy reports on the prospects of the Greek economy which diverge from official government predictions. There is also the more academically-oriented foundation of the parliament, focusing on historical issues and constitutional matters. In the period under review, both institutions were vehicles for the expression of a pluralism of opinions.

Parliamentary committees are also quite active in organizing hearings and in discussing a variety of issues. However, the parliament lacks a research unit (like for example the Congress Research Service or the Research Service of the House of Commons Library) that could provide members of parliament with expert opinion.

Are parliamentary committees able to ask for government documents?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may ask for most or all government documents; they are normally delivered in full and within an appropriate time frame.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to ask for government documents are slightly limited; some important documents are not delivered or are delivered incomplete or arrive too late to enable the committee to react appropriately.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to ask for government documents are considerably limited; most important documents are not delivered or delivered incomplete or arrive too late to enable the committee to react appropriately.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not ask for government documents.
Obtaining Documents
10
Members of parliament may request the supply of government documents and frequently exercise this right. Documents are normally delivered in full, within one month, from the competent ministry to the parliament. Restrictions apply to documents containing sensitive information on diplomatic, military or national security issues, but even in such cases a competent committee can inspect some classified documents in closed-door sessions. In sum, members of parliament are usually very demanding regarding information and they press authorities to obtain it.

Citations:
The supply of government documents to the parliament is regulated by article 133 of the Standing Orders of the Parliament.

Are parliamentary committees able to summon ministers for hearings?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may summon ministers. Ministers regularly follow invitations and are obliged to answer questions.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon ministers are slightly limited; ministers occasionally refuse to follow invitations or to answer questions.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon ministers are considerably limited; ministers frequently refuse to follow invitations or to answer questions.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not summon ministers.
Summoning Ministers
9
Ministers are regularly summoned to committees but they are obliged to appear in front of a committee only if two-fifths of the committee members require them to do so. There are a few restrictions with regard to information given to the committees by the Minister of Defense and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The former may restrict his or her comments only to armaments supplies, while the latter is not obliged to give information on any ongoing negotiations or talks in which Greece still participates. Owing to the ongoing crisis, ministers were frequently summoned and engaged in acute debates with the opposition in parliament. As expected in a polarized party system, sometimes debates created a spectacle rather than a setting to exchange rational arguments.

Citations:
The summoning of ministers is regulated by article 41A of the Standing Orders of the Greek parliament.

Are parliamentary committees able to summon experts for committee meetings?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may summon experts.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon experts are slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon experts are considerably limited.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not summon experts.
Summoning Experts
9
Regular committees summon experts from ministries, universities, NGOs and professional associations. Examples include high-ranking EC officials who have briefed the European Affairs Committee and university professors who have briefed the Committee on Cultural and Educational Affairs on university reforms.

Typically, government and the opposition tend to disagree on everything, even if there is consensus among experts that policy choices are very limited (e.g., the consensus on the obvious unsustainability of the pension system and on the destructive impact of party-led politicization on Greek universities). Recurring disagreements in parliamentary committees reflect the long-term polarization in the Greek party system and the wider mistrust and limited social capital available in Greece. However, in the period under review, parliamentary committees summoned many different experts, including technocrats, activists and academics.

Citations:
Summoning experts to regular committees is regulated by article 38 of the Standing Orders of the Greek parliament.

Are the task areas and structures of parliamentary committees suited to monitor ministries effectively?

10
 9

The match between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are well-suited to the effective monitoring of ministries.
 8
 7
 6


The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are largely suited to the monitoring ministries.
 5
 4
 3


The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are partially suited to the monitoring of ministries.
 2
 1

The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are not at all suited to the monitoring of ministries.
Task Area Congruence
7
After the last reshuffle of the Syriza-ANEL coalition government in November 2016, the number of ministries increased. Prime Minister Tsipras created several additional new ministries, such as the so-called Ministry of Digital Policy and the Ministry of Migration Policy. This raised the total number of ministries to 18. By contrast, the number of parliamentary committees remained the same: six “standing committees.”

Today, this discrepancy (18 ministries to six committees) creates a task mismatch, but parliamentary scrutiny is jointly carried out. For instance, there is a Standing Committee on Cultural and Educational Affairs and a Standing Committee on National Defense and Foreign Affairs.

The problem with monitoring ministries is owed to the sometimes decorative participation of members of parliament in committee meetings. Even though competences have been transferred from the plenary of the Greek parliament to the regular committees (which examine new legislation), this has not considerably improved the quality of legislation and parliamentary control.

Citations:
Information on the number, competences and tasks of regular committees of the Greek parliament in English is available at http://www.hellenicparliament.gr/en /Koinovouleftikes-Epitropes/Katigor ies. Accessed on 07.06.2013.

To what extent is the audit office accountable to the parliament?

10
 9

The audit office is accountable to the parliament exclusively.
 8
 7
 6


The audit office is accountable primarily to the parliament.
 5
 4
 3


The audit office is not accountable to the parliament, but has to report regularly to the parliament.
 2
 1

The audit office is governed by the executive.
Audit Office
6
The audit office is an institution independent of the government and the parliament. It is both a court that intervenes to resolve disputes related to the implementation of administrative law (e.g., civil service pensions) and a high-ranking administrative institution supervising expenses incurred by ministries and public entities.

The staff of the audit office is composed of judges who enjoy the same tenure as typical judges and follow a career path comparable to that of other judges. The audit office submits to the parliament an annual financial statement and the state’s balance sheet. The submission of some of these financial statements has been delayed. As in the case of selecting high-ranking judges, the government selects and appoints of the audit office’s president and vice-presidents.

There were some reforms to the audit office in the period under review. In early 2017, precautionary control of state finances was abolished and the office can now conduct “focused” audits into certain agencies or categories of expenses.

The audit office has shown that in its bureaucratic and legalistic approach it can largely detach itself from the executive. For example, in June 2017 the audit office declared the freezing of civil servants’ pensions unconstitutional, which had been part of the incumbent government’s plan to consolidate the state’s finances.

Citations:
Information on the Greek audit office in English is available at www.elsyn.gr/elsyn/root_jsp. Accessed on 07.06.2013.

Does the parliament have an ombuds office?

10
 9

The parliament has an effective ombuds office.
 8
 7
 6


The parliament has an ombuds office, but its advocacy role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


The parliament has an ombuds office, but its advocacy role is considerably limited.
 2
 1

The parliament does not have an ombuds office.
Ombuds Office
9
The ombuds office is one of the most well-organized public services in the country. The Greek ombudsman is selected and appointed by a group of high-ranking parliamentarians from the Greek parliament and is obliged to report to the parliament by submitting an annual report.

The ombudsman receives and processes complaints from citizens who are frequently caught in the web of the sprawling Greek bureaucracy. Depending on the complaint at hand, the ombuds office can intervene with the central, regional and local bureaucracy. The staff of the ombuds office can pressure the government to change existing legislation and can also inform the prosecutor’s office of any criminal offense committed by administrative employees and officials in the course of discharging their duties. For example, in the period under review, the ombuds office actively and persistently intervened to protect the rights of migrants and refugees, and redress the unfair treatment of a pensioner by the pension fund of private sector employees (IKA).

Citations:
Information in English on the Greek “ombuds office” is available at http://www.synigoros.gr/?i=stp.en. Accessed on 07.06.2013.

Media

#27

To what extent do media provide substantive in-depth information on decision-making by the government?

10
 9

A clear majority of mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing government decisions.
 8
 7
 6


About one-half of the mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing government decisions. The rest produces a mix of infotainment and quality information content.
 5
 4
 3


A clear minority of mass media brands focuses on high-quality information content analyzing government decisions. Several mass media brands produce superficial infotainment content only.
 2
 1

All mass media brands are dominated by superficial infotainment content.
Media Reporting
5
The media have been badly hit by Greece’s economic crisis. Facing declining circulation figures and advertising revenues, some outlets have imposed cuts or closed altogether. Meanwhile, wealthy owners have tried to consolidate and extend their power through the media, and the incumbent government has tightened its control over state-owned media.

The most popular TV and radio channels are privately owned and provide infotainment rather than in-depth information. Such channels may offer in-depth information only in cases in which the economic interests of private media owners are affected by a prospective government decision. Media owners often change sides, first favoring the government, then the opposition.

Political debates in the media tend to be rather general, along partisan lines, focusing on the government budget and trying to speculate on political developments. Substantive in-depth information is rare and the presentation of issues is more sentimental and partisan (pro- or anti-government) than objective.

On the other hand, the circulation of dailies has declined considerably from a low level, though they are quite influential in shaping the daily agenda and in framing debates. Sunday newspapers have a larger circulation and feature articles based on investigative journalism. Most people inform themselves through TV programs or various news websites. Nearly 67% of the population accessed the internet regularly in 2015. However, only a few websites publish informed contributions. News printed on the front page of a few, “yellow” Athenian dailies reveal a tendency to commit defamation or slander.

There is a deepening divide between pro-government and anti-government media. In short, one may find interesting in-depth information by browsing Greek websites, but overall in the period under review there was further decline in the unsatisfactory performance of Greek media.

Parties and Interest Associations

#16

How inclusive and open are the major parties in their internal decision-making processes?

10
 9

The party allows all party members and supporters to participate in its decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are open.
 8
 7
 6


The party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, all party members have the opportunity to participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are rather open.
 5
 4
 3


The party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, a number of elected delegates participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are largely controlled by the party leadership.
 2
 1

A number of party leaders participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are fully controlled and drafted by the party leadership.
Intra-party Democracy
7
Large parties, such as New Democracy and Syriza, continue to suffer from intense factionalism and heavy-handed control of lists of candidates and agendas of issues by the party leadership. New Democracy under its new leader has made some efforts to encourage supporters to participate in defining the party agenda. Nevertheless, major decisions are still made by the leader and a close group of advisers. These phenomena are extremely pronounced in small parties, such as the traditional Communist Party (KKE) and the nationalist far-right party of Independent Greeks (ANEL), where a small circle around the party leader has the final word over who is going to be included in the party lists.

Nevertheless, in the period under review, the leadership of New Democracy and Syriza summoned their parliamentary groups and other party organs, such as the Central Committee, to discuss the party’s line on major issues. Moreover, the parties of the center and the center-left, namely PASOK and Potami, along with smaller parties, decided to merge in November 2017. Thus, they were to an extent able to partly revive intra-party life. To sum up, there has been improvement with respect to the inclusiveness and openness of the major parties.

To what extent are economic interest associations capable of formulating relevant policies?

10
 9

Most interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 2
 1

Most interest associations are not capable of formulating relevant policies.
Association Competence (Business)
6
Interest associations make some relevant policy proposals in a few policy areas, such as macroeconomic policy, incomes and pensions and labor relations. Probably the most efficient interest association in this respect is the association of Greek industrialists (SEV).

The General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) counts on its think tank, the Labor Institute (INE), for information and advice on policy matters. The think tank of SEV is the Institute of Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE). Depending on the policy issue, this think tank may retain some autonomy from the leadership of SEV and promote the policy views of its own staff. The rest of the interest associations, such as the national association of merchants (ESEE) and the association of artisans, craftsmen and owners of small enterprises (GSEVE), have relatively less well-resourced and smaller think tanks.

In the period under review, the government tried to mend holes in relations between government and businesses, as it realized it needs the tolerance, if not the support, of business owners in order to revive the Greek economy.

Citations:
The opinions expressed by INE, a think tank associated with labor unions, are available at its website http://www.inegsee.gr/ (no foreign language version of this website’s contents). For opinions mostly reflecting the views of Greek industrialists, see the website of the think tank IOBE at http://www.iobe.gr/index.asp?a_id=1 22 (English version of the website).
K Featherstone & D Papadimitriou, The Limits of Europeanization: Reform Capacity and Policy Conflict in Modern Greece; London, Routledge, 2008

To what extent are non-economic interest associations capable of formulating relevant policies?

10
 9

Most interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 2
 1

Most interest associations are not capable of formulating relevant policies.
Association Competence (Others)
6
Greek civil society is relatively underdeveloped. However, the receding welfare state encouraged civil society engagement and mobilized citizens. The number of volunteers increased, new organizations were formed, and older organizations became more active in providing social services to impoverished Greeks and migrants. Also, new movements and organizations with politicized agendas appeared.

Most non-economic interest associations do not have the resources to become involved in policy formulation and the Greek state does not usually invite them to do so – though there has been some improvement. There are however exceptions regarding religious matters and migration matters.

The Greek Orthodox Church plays a preponderant role in formulating ecclesiastical matters and (to some extent) matters of education. For instance, religion is a compulsory subject in all grades of primary school and high school. Greece’s constitution grants the Greek Orthodox Church a privileged position among all churches and dogmas, and the Greek Orthodox Church enjoys a tailor-made taxation regime which allows it to sustain a large amount of property.

Finally, there is a vast array of small and medium-sized NGOs which are active in providing social protection and legal assistance to refugees and migrants. NGOs are located in major cities and on the Greek islands of the Aegean where refugees and migrants continue to land. In the period under review, their role was enhanced with regard to implementing migration policy, as central and local authorities proved unable or unwilling to manage the inflow of migrants and refugee.

Citations:
The provisions of the Constitution of Greece on the Greek Orthodox Church can be found in article 3 of the Constitution.
Back to Top