How effectively does Greece’s government develop strategic policy solutions and foster dialogue in the process?
The Management Index assesses a country’s capacity for reform. Three categories examine the ability to plan and implement policies. Accountability assesses the extent to which non-executive actors are included in the political process.
In Greece there are some planning units and advisory cabinets, but their role is circumscribed. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is not a functional equivalent of a strategic planning unit, as its role is to monitor the work of ministers and follow up the evolution of government policies. The PMO is primarily a coordinating agency.
Each minister is entitled to hire a group of advisers, many of whom are experts and/or academics. Strategic planning units can be found within some ministries. While most ministries do not possess a permanent strategic planning unit, some ministries have acquired the functional equivalent of such a unit. For instance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recourse to a council composed of experts on foreign policy and professors of international relations. However, the minister of foreign affairs does not regularly seek their opinions. In the Ministry of Finance, there is a more established institution, the Council of Economic Experts. Its members are academics, and the minister in charge often asks for their advice. Indeed, after the Greek debt crisis erupted, the Papandreou government used members of that council as advisers and negotiators in the encounters between official representatives of Greece and the European Commission and in the negotiations with the IMF.
Before the October 2009 government turnover, meetings between ministers and the strategic planning units were infrequent. The situation changed dramatically after the turnover, particularly in the winter of 2009 – 2010 as the government was obliged to tackle the fiscal crisis on an emergency basis.
The long-term pattern of the government administration as a whole has sustained a state of chronically weak coordination, with little capacity for strategic planning.
Greek governments seek scholarly advice and expertise either by forming ad hoc committees to monitor and formulate policies in specific areas (e.g., pensions, public administration) or by directly hiring academics and experts as political appointees. These appointees are made ministerial advisors (staff posts), or offered roles as “general” or “special” ministry secretaries (line positions). Indeed, these line posts are high-ranking political appointee jobs, ranking above the civil service hierarchy in each ministry, with their holders accountable directly to the minister in charge. The problem is that such academics and experts come and go with each ministerial reshuffling even within a single government’s term, and certainly change whenever there is government turnover. In addition, policy advice by such experts is often overruled on the basis of electoral or patronage-related considerations, by the same ministers who sought the contribution of academic experts in the first place.
The PMO consists of several branches corresponding to specific policy areas (e.g., economy, foreign policy, constitutional and legal affairs) and secretarial services. The structure and size of the PMO have changed several times since it was first founded as an institution in 1982. However, with the possible exception of the Konstantinos Simitis years (1996 – 2004), a lack of expert staff, infrastructure and other resources has left the PMO without sufficient capacity to guide government policy, let alone evaluate draft bills. In the Karamanlis government, the PMO worked in parallel with an ad hoc group of cabinet ministers and party cadres who met daily to assess current affairs and manage the government’s public image.
Ministries have been able to perform last-minute redrafts of government bills with little effective input from the PMO, providing scope to engage in clientelistic and/or corrupt activity. Moreover, there are limited resources allowing new legislation to be checked for consistency with existing statutes; as a result, court challenges frequently thwart the implementation of new initiatives.
In the Papandreou government, the PMO has been strengthened through a number of measures, including the hiring of expert staff (advisors to Papandreou with expertise in law, economics and public management); the assignment of the task of assessing the government’s legislative production and priorities to a government vice president and a minister without portfolio; and the enlistment of a group of foreign experts from the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Australia to reorganize the PMO and help in enhancing the government’s strategic management capacity.
The PMO is legally and de facto able to return materials on the basis of policy considerations. However, the importance assigned to this function fluctuates depending on the prime minister.
Last-minute revisions of draft bills by ministries can go unchecked, and provide distortions in the service of clientelistic and/or corrupt interests. More generally, the ability of the PMO to scrutinize draft legislation at any stage is very limited.
In the Karamanlis government, the cabinet used to meet infrequently, and there was a more lax attitude toward draft bills prepared by cabinet ministers, although of course the most important legislative proposals fell under the scrutiny of the prime minister’s advisors. In the Papandreou government, which has been functioning under a condition of acute fiscal crisis and is eager to decrease public expenditure associated with any new legislation, there is tighter supervision of items envisaged for the cabinet meeting on the basis of policy considerations.
The extent to which line ministries have to involve the PMO in the preparation of policy proposals differs by government and by the policy issue at stake, but is generally rather minimal. When a major reform is underway, such as a substantive policy shift in the pension or higher education system, line ministries do coordinate their action with the PMO.
However, it is not uncommon for ministers to prepare proposals for less-crucial policy shifts that are barely scrutinized by the PMO, as long as there is no conflict with government priorities as laid out in the governing party’s program. This results from the administrative weakness of a PMO that often has insufficient resources. It also results from the fact that some ministerial portfolios are held by old, powerful politicians of the governing party who may feel they can keep the PMO at bay in regard to their own policy choices. This traditional Greek centrifugal pattern of relations between ministries and the PMO was reproduced in the Karamanlis government. In the Papandreou government, given Greece’s dire financial situation and the prime minister’s ambition to ensure that policies are more tightly controlled by the core executive, line ministers regularly brief the PMO on their plans and policy proposals. The new government also initiated moves to reform coordination and control across the administration.
For essential information on the number and task areas of Greek ministries in English, see
http://www.primeminister.gr/english/government/ (accessed on 29 April 2010)
Greece’s government has cabinet committees, but their function is not relevant to preparing cabinet meetings. Such meetings are prepared by the PMO, which is in charge of setting the agenda of meetings, and by another government organ called the General Secretariat of the Government. This latter group is often staffed by lawyers and administrative officials who take care of procedural and legal aspects rather than the substance of the meetings’ agenda.
The existing cabinet committees have other functions. For instance, there is a cabinet committee which in charge of defense issues, including matters such as selecting and promoting the leadership of the armed forces. The title of this committee is the Government’s Council for National Defense, and it is a political institution that monitors the armed forces, in effect affirming the elected government’s control over the army.
Other cabinet committees are formed in an ad hoc fashion, for tasks such as supervising and coordinating Greece’s economic policy.
For information on the general secretariat of the government (in English), see
http://www.ggk.gov.gr/?page_id =334 (accessed on 25 April 2010)
The role of senior ministry officials is circumscribed not only in the preparation of cabinet meetings, but also in the preparation of draft bills belonging to their own ministry’s area of competence. The role of such officials is limited to voicing objections to government policy on the grounds of legal or technical constraints (e.g., a lack of personnel or other resources necessary for implementing a new law). Instead of senior ministry officials, cabinet ministers and the prime minister rely on political appointees (party cadres, academics and other experts) who come and go with each ministerial reshuffling and government turnover.
In other words, the PMO is exclusively staffed by political appointees, with the same holding true of the General Secretariat of the Government, which has the function of preparing cabinet meetings. Appointees to this secretariat tend to be pro-government lawyers and academics who offer their expertise to the cabinet, but do not really participate in policy-making. Their role is to coordinate and prepare cabinet meetings by attending to any legal aspect of the cabinet’s activities and taking care of administrative details.
Line ministries’ higher civil servants are not normally involved in either the formulation or the coordination of policy proposals. Most policy preparation is done by political appointees, typically pro-government academics, experts and governing party cadres who form the minister’s entourage. These appointees staff a unit at the peak of each ministry’s hierarchy which is the functional equivalent of the French “cabinet ministerial,” called in Greece the “political bureau of the minister.”
Successive governments have found cross-departmental coordination to be very difficult for political, bureaucratic and quality of resource reasons. Ministries tend to be isolated fiefdoms, with distinct political interests; and the amount of available information by which policy can be merged and coordinated can be woefully weak.
Thus, the role of higher civil servants is very limited. Only a few capable civil servants are invited or are even capable of raising legal issues, or of pointing to potential implementation difficulties during the drafting and coordinating stages of policy creation. This administrative capacity is the result of the longstanding practice, under many successive governments, of hiring unskilled employees selected on the basis of patronage, party political or personal criteria, and subsequently promoting them to the upper echelons of the civil service bureaucracy.
The Papandreou government, elected in September 2009, has initiated moves to address these problems of coordination and control.
Most coordination mechanisms in the Greek government are informal. The PMO discusses policy proposals with ministers in ad hoc meetings; individual ministers inform one another of policy initiatives over the phone or in brief personal meetings; and advisers to the prime minister confer with ministers on policy issues when the prime minister selectively invites ministers to the PMO headquarters for consultation.
Regulatory impact assessments (RIAs) are known in Greece, but are not systematically applied. Efforts to introduce RIAs in the previous reporting period were never implemented. Under the Karamanlis government, all ministries were requested to accompany new bills with a RIA beginning in February 2009. However, the elections of 2009 and the financial crisis of 2009 – 2010 have served as considerable distractions, and the RIA process was quickly dropped. In theory, RIAs in Greece are supposed to assess the impact that new bill would have on already existing legislation, estimate the economic impact of the bill, and evaluate whether the new law would overlap with other legislation. But impact assessments (and policy evaluation more generally) has in fact remained very underdeveloped.
In the Papandreou government, a new attempt to start applying RIA was made in various ministries in April 2010, but it is too early to evaluate this attempt. A separate unit for RIAs within the PMO was also apparently under discussion.
RIAs are very underdeveloped in Greece, and thus have little analytical depth. The resources and capabilities needed to undertake such analyses have simply not been in place. The prime minister’s office has asked ministers to explain the purpose and need for any new legislation by drafting a concise statement to that effect and attaching the statement to the draft regulation. In the first months of 2010, under Papandreou, some ministers did in fact prepare and submit such statements, but it is too early to say whether such a practice will take root.
The RIA system remained largely undeveloped in Greece through most of the period under review. Government resources and practices have not been able to sustain a process of evaluating alternative policy options to any substantive degree, save for the appointment of external ad hoc committees.
Thus, even though RIAs are somewhat known and to an extent practiced by the Papandreou government, the effort to produce alternative options and to quantify the costs and benefits of alternative options has not come to fruition.
In formal terms, the Greek political system possesses institutions specifically built for societal consultation. These include the Economic and Social Committee, set up by the social partners to discuss the government’s policy initiatives and other issues of interest to employers and employees; the negotiations on wages and salaries which take place every two years between representatives of employers’ associations and trade unions, resulting in the national collective labor pacts; Internet-based public deliberation on all new major pieces of legislation, in the form of online debates over prospective government measures organized by ministries and hosted on official websites; and ad hoc rounds of dialogue between social and economic actors affected by proposed reforms (e.g., dialogue on pension reform, on higher education reform, etc.).
The end result of all these institutions and processes of consultation is mixed. While the government aims to facilitate the acceptance of its policies among social and economic actors by consulting with them, in practice the various forums of consultation may not be used or may play a cosmetic role rather than serving as true sites of debate and policy refinement. Some of the consultative organs do not meet regularly and may be underused. An example of this is a consultative council in which representatives of the market and consumers’ associations are supposed to meet and discuss the prices and quality of goods and services offered in the market.
The Greek government is organizationally fragmented, meaning that individual ministers are not closely monitored by the PMO (which is rather small and weak in resources) nor by any other central executive organ. This is true both for ministry policy content and priorities and for the patterns of political communication between the government and the citizens. While the government has a spokesperson who briefs media representatives on government priorities and decisions on a daily basis, individual ministers develop their own linkages to the media. They aspire to win the public’s attention, and also cater to local interests in their own electoral district, where individual channels of communication help them win reelection.
As a consequence, cabinet members sometimes made contradictory statements during the period under review. The occasional lack of coherence was also due to the fact that under the Karamanlis government (September 2007 – September 2009), the cabinet rarely met, and did not really discuss prospective policy measures. This situation has been different under Papandreou, who after winning the elections of 2009, created an administrative level tasked with supervision and monitoring of ministry activities, consisting of a minister without portfolio and a government vice president. Papandreou has made it a point to convene the cabinet regularly, and have ministers announce and discuss their plans in front of their colleagues.
Depending on the policy sector in question, the success of the government in implementing its policy objectives varies; generally, however, it is low. There are a number of areas where successive governments have identified reform objectives, but been forced to accept more limited implementation performance, including the pension system, privatization and employment regulation, for example. Efforts to implement structural change have run against entrenched interests and practices, and the policy areas have proven difficult to separate from other issues. The failure to make greater progress has undermined competitiveness, and has placed Greece in a vulnerable position with respect to its deteriorating fiscal position at the end of 2010.
In the Karamanlis government, the state-owned Olympic Airways airline was successfully privatized, although with some delay. On the other hand, the objective of streamlining the pension system, the finances of which are unsustainable, was not attained. The 2008 law on pension reform, passed by the Karamanlis government, essentially amounted to an administrative reorganization of the current social security system’s ailing pension funds.
In the Papandreou government, the aim to amend legislation on the rights of migrants was fulfilled by passing a new law in March 2010, which opened up opportunities for migrants to acquire Greek citizenship and granted migrants the right to vote in local government elections. However, the Papandreou government was unable to raise enough state revenue from taxes or loans drawn on international financial markets in the first three months of 2010. As a consequence, in April 2010 Greece applied to the European Union and the IMF for financial support in order to meet its obligations toward creditors.
There are very few, if any, incentives for Greek ministers to implement the government’s program. They abide by this program as along as the legislation they must pass in order to implement government policy does not tarnish their personal public image. Ministers are almost always members of parliament, and they make a point of avoiding legislation that might negatively affect their reelection chances. Also, if the press or large trade unions offer opposition to ministers’ efforts to implement the government’s program, the ministers will usually back down rather than putting up a fight. This trend in the political behavior is related to the very competitive and very costly election campaigns for parliamentary seats. The tendency of ministers to shy away from implementing the government’s program if such implementation is unpopular is particularly aggravated in large electoral districts, where each political party presents a long list of candidates from among whom voters choose one to four preferred candidates. In these cases, party supporters may use their preference vote in order to vote for the party of their choice, but also to “punish” a candidate who has made unpopular decisions in his or her capacity as minister.
The capacity and will of the Greek PMO to monitor the activities of line ministries depends on the government in power, and on the policy competence of the ministry in question. Generally, the PMO closely monitors the activities of the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of National Defense. The PMO is not always focused on the activities of the rest of the ministries.
In the Karamanlis government, the PMO was from time to time able and willing to closely monitor line ministries. However, as the fiscal performance of Greece in 2008 – 2009 showed, apparently no government organ, even the PMO, was able to control either the runaway public expenditures or the collapse of the state’s capacity to raise revenue. Since October 2009, the PMO under the Papandreou government has made a more concerted effort to monitor line ministries, particularly just after the winter of 2009 – 2010 when the government realized the gravity of the country’s fiscal problem. Indeed, the Papandreou government’s PMO has made a point of tightly controlling line ministries.
Greece is a unitary state, and does not encounter the problems of monitoring executive agencies that appear in some federal states. Greek ministries each oversee a substantial number of semiautonomous executive agencies.
However, the performance of many executive agencies is poor, and a number continue to exist without exercising any effective function (i.e., they are moribund). Regulatory performance is often inadequate.
Ministers appoint the chief executive officers and administrative boards of most agencies attached to the ministry. In fact, ministers control most functions and activities of agencies falling within their task area so closely that, in practice, bureaucratic drift is not the most dangerous problem. Rather, the tight, less-than-transparent control of agencies by ministers, even at the expense of the agency’s sustainability, is a concern. For instance, an agency may be “instructed” to hire excess personnel or to channel its financial assets (e.g., savings) toward this or that financial institution. This type of mismanagement allows the minister in charge to engage in patronage and service sectoral interests by selectively administering favors through the agencies monitored by his or her ministry.
In Greece, subnational self-government refers to directly elected prefectural authorities and municipal authorities. These authorities primarily depend on the state budget for the funding of their mandates, but are able to raise revenue through a few locally imposed taxes (e.g., municipalities requiring restaurants, bars and coffee shops to pay for a license to set out tables and chairs on public walkways outside their doors). Since the mid-1990s, the central government has followed a course of delegation, passing many responsibilities to subnational authorities. However, the central government does not provide the prefectural and local governments with enough funding, making unfunded mandates common.
Compared to other southern European states such as Italy and Spain, Greece is a unitary and centralized state. Authorities at the regional level are appointed by the central government. There are elected authorities at the prefectural and the municipal levels, which are organized along the French model of administration. Whereas the Greek constitution grants economic and administrative autonomy to subnational self-governments at the prefectural and municipal level, in reality this autonomy is circumscribed. Even though such subnational units have acquired more competences over time, they are not financially sustainable, as they depend heavily on the ailing fiscal policy of the central Greek state. Administrative incapacity is another factor limiting prefectural and municipal authorities’ autonomy. For example, municipal services are staffed by unskilled personnel, who are not able to carry out complex tasks related to local economic planning and programming, law enforcement (even within the jurisdictional realm of the municipal police), or social care and social services. Moreover, there has been frequent reshuffling of competences, from the central to the local level of public administration and back again. Thus, even though the central government does not deliberately preclude the development of subnational self-governments, prefectural and municipal governments accomplish very little within their scope of discretion.
The central government has difficulty ensuring that various ministries, semi-autonomous agencies and state-owned enterprises meet national standards of public services even at the central level. It goes without saying that the central government has even greater difficulties ensuring the same thing when the decentralized provision of public services is concerned. Both at the central and the decentralized level, there is an uneven allocation of resources (e.g., staff, infrastructure, funds), which is irrational and inefficient. Rules are bent to serve clientelistic and sectoral interests, while performance figures are all but unknown as a tool of policy evaluation and planning in many quarters of the central and local administration.
The government has adapted domestic administrative structures in at least two ways. First, it has created and expanded new units within ministries which are in charge of European and international affairs. These units are staffed by civil servants and political appointees with the title of “special” or “general” secretaries, who are hand-picked by ministers when the latter assume their duties. It is not uncommon for such political appointees to leave when the minister who appointed them also leaves office. In other words, the frequent reshuffling of Greek cabinets affects not only the top level of ministry personnel (the minister and his “political bureau,” which is roughly the equivalent of the French “cabinet ministerial”), but also administrative levels below that of the minister.
Second, the government has founded new agencies, officially appended to the central hierarchy of ministries, but in fact substantively outside the realm of the civil service hierarchy, and away from the web of intraministerial relations. These units are semi-autonomous agencies, tasked with projects that the government deems inappropriate for the regular ministries either because it wants to closely monitor a certain task required by supranational developments (e.g., the absorption of EU Community Support Frameworks funds), or because it correctly calculates that the civil service would be incapable of engaging at an international and supranational level (e.g., communication and contacts with international agencies on the issue of policy transfers).
Overall, the effectiveness of such adaptations has been limited. The state administration, including such agencies, lacks sufficient high-quality resources, operating procedures and professional norms to deal effectively with external institutions in many areas.
Greece is a longtime EU member state, but is small in terms of its national economy and is administratively and financially weak. Even if Greece had developed more efficient governance structures, it could not play anything but a minimal role in shaping international policies. Greek representatives participate in almost all international forum and initiatives, in numerous policy sectors. Still, the participation of Greek officials in international cooperative programs in fields such as international security, economic development, social progress, human rights issues and environmental protection does not guarantee that the country will follow, let alone lead, any joint reform initiatives. Moreover, Greece is a laggard in some policy sectors such as environmental protection, because it either delays the transposition of EU or other international regulations or altogether fails to implement them.
Monitoring institutional governing arrangements has never been a strong point of Greek governments. In the Karamanlis government, the task of setting rules of procedure and work formats was left to an ad hoc body consisting of a few cabinet ministers and advisers to the prime minister, presided over by a minister without portfolio. This body met informally on a daily basis at the prime minister’s headquarters and monitored the day-to-day functioning of the government, including the cabinet, the PMO and ministers’ portfolios. This body was not really expected to monitor institutional arrangements in any systematic way, but rather to discuss government priorities in the short run, resolve issues of public communication in order to boost the government’s approval rates, and manage relations with the parliament, the governing party and the ministerial administration.
In the Papandreou government, the role of monitoring institutional arrangements is assigned to the vice president of the government (a post that did not exist under Karamanlis) and to the minister without portfolio. They have their own staff of experts and political advisers, and attempt to monitor arrangements in a more systematic fashion than was the case with the previous government.
The Papandreou government also initiated a review of its organization and procedures. This involved an international advisory committee. At the end of the current review period, this had not yet led to a final report.
The pace of change of institutional arrangements in Greece has always been slow, and the change itself has often looked like a journey through unchartered waters. These patterns were exemplified during the period under review when first the Karamanlis government and then the Papandreou government tried to improve on the strategic capacity of the state by pursuing a “reinvention of government” (under Karamanlis), and by trying to rationalize the cabinet’s size and reallocate ministerial tasks (under Papandreou). The “reinvention of government” represented more of a general vision of reform than a clearly specified plan of change. Papandreou’s ministry mergers and reduction in the total number of cabinet ministers was a more concrete step toward changing the strategic capacity of the government. However, none of these attempts has produced visible improvement in the government’s strategic capacity, though in the case of the Papandreou government it is too early to give a full evaluation. Yet, credit should be given for both administrations’ unusually wide-ranging attempts to review the operation and effectiveness of government, and to take fresh initiatives. This predates the fiscal crisis.
The repeated tendency of Greek governments to change institutional arrangements without really achieving tangible improvements in strategic capacity is the result of prevailing modes of thinking and routines followed by political elites.
The Greek public has a high interest in politics, but considerably less knowledge of specific government policies. Historically, high levels of politicization have served to obscure policy debates, as have the substantial levels of clientelism. Though partisanship does not run as high today as in the past, much of the previous neglect remains buttressed by other factors.
However, the lack of professionalism among journalists, the sensationalism which prevails in media programs and the relatively minimal emphasis put by the state and major political parties on civic education result in citizens being ill informed of government policies. Most citizens have at best an elementary knowledge of policies, which is evident in the widespread inability to understand and assess the main facts about macroeconomic and fiscal policies, or about social security, education and taxation reforms.
According to the Greek constitution and the by-laws of the Greek parliament, parliamentary committees have the legal ability to ask for most government documents, with only a few exceptions (documents related to highly sensitive foreign affairs, internal security, and defense issues). Ministries responsible for the issues addressed by such committees are able and willing to deliver the requested documents, usually on time.
For information on the committees of the Greek Parliament see, http://www.parliament.gr/synthesh/e pitropes.asp (accessed: 30 March 2010)
Parliamentary committees have the ability to summon ministers freely and as frequently as they wish. Ministers indeed attend when summoned by such committees, and are obliged to respond to the questions posed by committee members. This procedure is typically followed when a minister introduces a draft law in the Greek parliament, or when a major political issue arises. As in other systems, the voracity of such committee investigations is constrained by party discipline and interests.
Parliamentary committees may summon experts, with no limitation in this respect. When an issue is debated, committees typically invite experts representing different opinions (for example, experts expressing different viewpoints on pension or higher education reform).
The Greek parliament maintains committees whose area of competence roughly coincides with that of sets of related ministries. For example, the Standing Committee on Defense and Foreign Affairs exercises parliamentary control over and debates bills submitted by the two ministries mentioned in its title. Even though there are fewer parliamentary committees than ministries (six standing committees, 13 ministries in the Papandreou government), committees are not overburdened. This is because committees are allowed to form subcommittees from among their members in order to cover the task areas of particular ministries. An example is the Subcommittee on Defense, which is an outgrowth of the Standing Committee on Defense and Foreign Affairs. In addition, some committees hold a competence of a “horizontal nature,” spanning more than one policy sector. Examples are the Special Permanent Committee on Technology Assessment and the Special Permanent Committee on Equality and Human Rights.
As in many other contemporary democracies, the legislature in Greece faces the challenge of responding to the increasing power of the executive. Greek governments produce many new regulations of their own, and also transpose EU legislation, while members of parliament may not be always resourceful enough to grapple with the many different and complex aspects of new legislation.
The effectiveness of parliamentary scrutiny of the ministries is limited by intragovernmental features of poor coordination, information and data, as well as a lack of transparency. Indeed, if scrutiny of the ministries from the center of government is limited, it is not surprising that the parliament too struggles in this respect. This is not, in the main, a result of any mismatch of committees and ministries.
The audit office is a separate court institution, which along with its duties to resolve specific administrative conflicts, is also entrusted with the task of preapproving and reviewing all public expenses made by public services, including ministries and state organizations such as state universities and public hospitals. The audit office is not accountable to parliament. Its president and its eight vice presidents are selected by the cabinet from among the highest-ranking judges who are members of the audit court. In the Papandreou government, a new law has given a high-ranking parliamentary body consisting of the president and the vice presidents of the Greek parliament a consultative role in selecting the leadership of all high courts. This means there has been a slight shift in the balance of control of the audit office, which for a long time had favored the executive.
The 2010 fiscal crisis has triggered a new debate on institutional reforms that might strengthen budgetary oversight and lead to higher-quality data.
For information on the Greek audit office published in English, see http://www.elsyn.gr/elsyn/files/Gre ece0012.pdf
The parliament does not have an ombuds office, but the Greek Ombudsman is an independent authority. The officeholder is selected by the government, but the candidate must obtain the approval of a body consisting of the president and the vice presidents of the parliament. The Ombudsman is also obliged to submit an annual report on its activities to the parliament.
The Ombudsman’s office has quickly established its reputation. The lack of a specific ombudsman’s office for parliament is not a prominent matter of debate, though it could help with accountability and alleged corruption.
For information on the Greek Ombudsman, see http://www.synigoros.gr/ (accessed on 28 April 2010)
The country’s main TV and radio stations provide daily infotainment programs early in the morning (6 am to 9 am), and news programs in the late afternoon (2 pm or 3 pm) and in the evening at 8 pm. More infotainment, plus a few political debate programs are also broadcast at 10 pm or later at night, two or three times a week. With very few exceptions, the news programs focus and thrive on sensationalist news and last for a long time (sometimes over an hour), since they involve not only reporting on current issues but also live commentary by invited journalists, politicians and media celebrities. The few existing information and debate programs typically involve government and opposition MPs or party cadres known for their tendency to provoke and fuel personal or ideological disputes rather than engage in substantive policy discussions.
Anchorpersons (most of whom are anchormen) are not well informed about the topics they address, and rarely use factual knowledge to structure the agenda of their programs or the questions they pose to their interlocutors. Generally, the tendency of anchormen is to dispute the government’s decisions and to reinforce a culture of distrust toward all political and administrative institutions. Discussions allow or even incite program participants to interrupt each other constantly in a way that completely marginalizes the information and analysis content, thus impeding the presentation of competing viewpoints.
In sum, a culture of opposition to every government decision often prevails among commentators, such as journalists and opposition party cadres. The available infotainment, news and information programs do not enable viewers to gain in-depth information either about the precise content of government’s decisions or about the parameters of the ensuing debate. In other words, except for confirming the almost instinctual drive of interest groups and opposition parties to reject almost all government decisions in toto, it is difficult to deduce exactly where parties and interest groups stand on specific aspects of government decisions.
The fact that both the 2007 and 2009 elections were called on the basis of short-term electoral calculations, a pattern followed by many Greek governments since the 1974 transition to democracy, contributed little to the elaboration and lack of cohesiveness in the policy proposals contained in the tow main parties’ electoral programs. The parties have long-established institutions which are supposed to produce problem diagnoses, policy objectives and proposals. PASOK has created the Andreas Papandrou Institute for Strategic and Developmental Studies (ISTAME), whereas ND relies on the Center for Political Research and Training (KPEE) and the Democracy Institute “Constantine Karamanlis.” All these institutes employ permanent research and administrative staff, and have been able to attract well-known academics and experts to their administrative and scientific boards. However, Greek parties, which are very personalistic in their decision-making structures, have an unpredictable relationship with these policy-making institutes, sometimes asking them to produce fully realized policy proposals and at other times completely neglecting their policy contributions.
In 2007 and in 2009, the leadership of the two major parties had groups of party cadres construct a variety of hastily formed, half-baked policy proposals, often omitting important details such as the projected cost and predicted policy impact of the proposals, so as to avoid negative reactions from the public. Periodically, parties do produce proposals which are concrete and reasonable, such as recent proposals to coordinate local governments in Greece’s two major urban centers (Athens and Thessaloniki), which are currently governed by several local authorities instead of a single metropolitan administration in each city.
Major interest associations such as the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) and the Association of Greek Industrialists (SEV) formulate policy proposals on major issues such as income policy, taxation and pensions. These associations rely on think tanks they have founded with the purpose of obtaining technical and policy advice. For example, the Foundation of Economic and Industrial Research (IOVE) is loosely related to SEV, while the Institute of Labor (INE) is closely associated with GSEE and the Confederation of Civil Servants’ Unions (ADEDY). The think tanks are staffed by part-time academics who have full-time appointments in Greek universities, as well as by younger researchers.
Interest associations prepare policy proposals based on reports prepared by these think tanks. However, interest associations and their think tanks do not have the administrative and scientific capacity to comment on all major policy initiatives taken by the government. They periodically produce concrete proposals (e.g., SEV’s reports on Greece’s national action plans for employment and social inclusion, 2003 – 2005) which are not regularly updated. Interest associations often put forward vague statements of opinions, such as values or guidelines meant to inform policies, rather than concrete policy proposals. Even when interest associations agree on the significance and basic parameters of a policy problem (e.g., pension reform), they often arrive at diametrically opposed, less-than-reasonable solutions, which reflect the history of polarized party and interest competition, the prevailing distrust toward political institutions, and the absence of established channels of consultation among social partners.
At times, policy proposals are not technically feasible, but express an unrealistic, polemical attitude on distributional issues. An example is GSEE’s periodic demand that the state budget provide additional funding to the pension system, even at a time of fiscal crisis (2008 – 2010), and during a period in which the state’s capacity to raise tax revenue actually fell (2007 – 2009).
Social interest groups, environmental groups and religious groups have an even weaker capacity than business associations and trade unions to produce concrete policy proposals. They cannot count on organized structures of policy analysis (e.g., think tanks) but rely on individual expertise mostly offered on a voluntary basis. This is less true for the Greek Christian Orthodox Church, which is a large organization funded by the state budget, than for associations active in social welfare, environmental protection, culture, education or migration issues. The Orthodox Church has a pool of lawyers and managers tasked with managing its substantial property and personnel (all Orthodox priests’ salaries are paid by the state).
However, the church’s interventions in public debates remain either at a general abstract level of policy guidelines or are limited to arguing for the preservation of the most traditional forms and values of schooling, social welfare and family life. On the other hand, small social interest associations, such as associations promoting human rights, environmental protection or higher education reform, formulate and disseminate concrete, substantive and reasonable policy proposals, with the help of academics and experts sympathetic to the associations’ causes. Still, such proposals, even if they succeed in catching the attention of the mass media, rarely influence top decision-making structures, which normally consist of a minister and his or her small circle of political appointees (governing-party cadres and technocrats).
Governments in charge
SGI 2011 review period (May 2008 to April 2010) is outlined. Shown are: Prime minister or president, type of government, and ruling parties. Asterisks indicate national parliamentary or presidential elections.
Country scores and texts were produced by the country coordinator, based on comprehensive assessments by two country experts.
Prof. Cesar Colino Spanish Distance-Learning University, Madrid
Prof. Dimitri A. Sotiropoulos University of Athens
Prof. Kevin Featherstone London School of Economics and Political Science