Greece

   

Executive Accountability

#26
Key Findings
With a mixed oversight record, Greece falls into the lower-middle ranks internationally (rank 26) with regard to executive accountability. Its score on this measure marks a gain of 0.4 points relative to 2014.

The parliament has robust formal oversight powers despite a mismatch between committees and ministries, 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, and the data-protection office is quite active.

Political-party leadership circles tend to control candidate lists and agendas. Citizens are not well-informed about government policies due to the predominance of partisan or infotainment-focused reporting. The government has tightened its control over the state-owned media, while the private sector is increasingly oligopolistic. Citizens trust social media more than the news media.

Interest associations make relevant policy proposals in economic areas, though they had little input during the bailout period. 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. The state’s assumption of responsibility for refugee camps has produced largely negative results.

Citizens’ Participatory Competence

#33

To what extent are citizens informed of public policies?

10
 9

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


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


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

Most citizens are not aware of public policies.
Political 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. Turnout in elections was high until the crisis began and has rapidly declined since. Greeks rarely turn to policymakers (i.e., government ministers and members of parliament) to voice their opinion on policy options. Rather, they mostly rely on interest groups to do so on their behalf.

In Greece, there is a tradition of appealing to government ministers or members of parliament 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, economic stagnation prevailed. 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 and, as usual, citizens were taken by surprise regarding the government’s policy measures.

Citations:
The Ministry of Interior reports turnout in elections. The relevant percentage figures are available at the Ministry’s http://ekloges.ypes.gr.

Does the government publish data and information in a way that strengthens citizens’ capacity to hold the government accountable?

10
 9

The government publishes data and information in a comprehensive, timely and user-friendly way.
 8
 7
 6


The government most of the time publishes data and information in a comprehensive, timely and user-friendly way.
 5
 4
 3


The government publishes data in a limited and not timely or user-friendly way.
 2
 1

The government publishes (almost) no relevant data.
Open Government
7
Before the onset of the Greek economic crisis, there was a problem with reporting statistical and other data regarding government revenue and expenses as well as regarding personnel in the Greek public sector.

The situation has exceptionally improved since then. Barring data on defense and security, which are considered classified, one can have access to data produced by the revamped official statistical authority of Greece (Helstat); these data are compiled and published according to Eurostat’s requirements. One can also find reliable data on public employment, including type of work contract and other information on Greek public employees, via a separate website of the Ministry of Administrative Reconstruction (Apografi). Finally, owing to a law enhancing transparency, one can browse all administrative acts issued by the central, regional, and local authorities and other public bodies (the Diavgeia system). Though this transparency system is not very user-friendly, accessing data is possible.

Citations:
The three platforms, cited in the above response, through which one can access data and information are the following:
http://www.statistics.gr/en/home/
http://apografi.gov.gr/ and
https://diavgeia.gov.gr/

Legislative Actors’ Resources

#19

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.

Parliamentary committees are also quite active in organizing hearings and in discussing a variety of issues. However, the parliament lacks a research unit (such as, 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 request 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. Overall, 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 economic stagnation in Greece and tensions with neighboring countries, ministers were frequently summoned to parliament and engaged in intense debates with the opposition. 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
5
After the most recent reshuffle within the Syriza-ANEL coalition government in Αugust 2018, the number of ministries increased to 19. By contrast, the number of parliamentary committees remained the same: six “standing committees.” This discrepancy (19 ministries versus 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. However, there are also several “Special Standing Committees” and “Special Permanent Committees” with more specific agendas (e.g., one on European affairs and another on armament programs and contracts).

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

Media

#28

To what extent do media in your country analyze the rationale and impact of public policies?

10
 9

A clear majority of mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing the rationale and impact of public policies.
 8
 7
 6


About one-half of the mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing the rationale and impact of public policies. 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 public policies. Several mass media brands produce superficial infotainment content only.
 2
 1

All mass media brands are dominated by superficial infotainment content.
Media Reporting
5
While in terms of newspaper circulation and quality newspapers Greece is ranked in the middle among OECD countries, the reliability and accuracy of Greek news media is largely doubted by the public. Pew research published in October 2018 showed that in no other country do people as extensively believe that news reporting is inaccurate as in Greece. This finding is confirmed by a 2017 Reuters Institute report that also notes that Greece is the only country where trust of social media exceeds that of news media.

Meanwhile, the incumbent government has tightened its control over state-owned media and an oligopolistic structure has begun to emerge in the media sector. In the period under review, one major television channel (Mega) went out of business, while another (Alpha TV) was bought by one of its competitors. The most popular television and radio channels are privately owned and provide infotainment rather than in-depth reporting. Such channels may offer in-depth reporting 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, while in-depth reporting and analysis are rare. The presentation of issues is more sentimental and partisan (pro- or anti-government) than objective. Most people inform themselves through television programs or various news websites. Finally, there is recurrent, deep divide between pro-government and anti-government media (partisanship has been a strong feature of Greek media for decades). In short, one may find interesting in-depth reporting by browsing Greek websites, but overall there was a further decline in the already unsatisfactory performance of Greek media during the review period.

Citations:
Information on newspaper circulation and quality newspapers is available on this platform, through the SGI dataset. The Pew research, published in October 2018, which contained comparative tables on citizens’ views on accuracy and reliability of news media is available at https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2018/01/11/publics-globally-want-unbiased-news-coverage-but-are-divided-on-whether-their-news-media-deliver/

Reuters Institute, Digital News Research 2017 https://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/sites/default/files/Digital%20News%20Report%202017%20web_0.pdf?utm_source=digitalnewsreport.org&utm_medium=referral

Parties and Interest Associations

#30

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 issue agendas 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 issue agendas 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 issue agendas are fully controlled and drafted by the party leadership.
Intra-party Decision-Making
5
Large parties (e.g., New Democracy and Syriza) continue to suffer from intense factionalism and party leadership’s heavy-handed control of candidate lists and agendas. Syriza’s party organs are regularly convened by the party leader (Prime Minister Tsipras) to discuss government policy since assuming power in 2015. New Democracy, under its new leader (Kyriakos Mitsotakis), has made some effort to encourage supporters to participate in defining the party’s agenda. Nevertheless, major decisions remain with the leader and a close group of advisers. These phenomena are even more pronounced in small parties, including in the traditional Communist Party (KKE) and also in Syriza’s government coalition partner, the nationalist far-right party of Independent Greeks (ANEL). In these parties, a very small circle around the party leader has the final word in decision-making.

In the period under review, though the parties of the center and the center-left (PASOK and Potami, along with smaller parties) had agreed to merge in November 2017, a period of estrangement between the two dominant parties followed. The revival of intra-party life proved to be short-lived.

To what extent are economic interest associations (e.g., employers, industry, labor) 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 (Employers & Unions)
6
Interest associations often make 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 Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV).

The General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) counts on its thinktank, the Labor Institute (INE), for information and advice on policy matters. The thinktank of SEV is the Institute of Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE). Depending on the policy issue, this thinktank 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 thinktanks. The same holds for the General Confederation of Civil Servants (ADEDY) which recently revived its own thinktank (ADEDY Polykentro)

In the period under review, the government did not systematically consult with economic interest associations, as it was preoccupied with implementing the last leg of the three-year long Memorandum of Understanding, signed between Greece and its creditors in the summer of 2015. Naturally, government ministers appeared at all major events staged by economic interest associations (e.g., annual conventions and specific conferences), but it is doubtful whether these brief exchanges between government officials and association representatives had any impact on policy formulation.

Citations:
The opinions expressed by INE, a thinktank of GSEE supporting labor unions, are available at https://www.inegsee.gr/
(in Greek only). For opinions mostly reflecting the views of Greek industrialists, see the website of the thinktank IOBE at http://iobe.gr/default_en.as (English version of the website).

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)
5
Greek civil society is relatively underdeveloped. After the onset of the economic crisis in 2010, 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 political agendas appeared.

Most non-economic interest associations do not have the resources to become involved in policy formulation nor does the Greek state usually invite them to do so – though there has been some improvement. There are, however, exceptions regarding religious 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. This pattern of heavy church influence on policy formulation is preserved regardless of the political profile (right-wing, centrist or left-wing) of the governing party or parties in power.

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 probably declined as the Greek state took it upon itself to manage refugee camps on several Greek islands (albeit with very ambivalent, if not negative, results, as indicated by the living conditions in these camps).

Citations:
The provisions of the constitution of Greece on the Greek Orthodox Church can be found in article 3 of the constitution.

Independent Supervisory Bodies

#21

Does there exist an independent and effective audit office?

10
 9

There exists an effective and independent audit office.
 8
 7
 6


There exists an effective and independent audit office, but its role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


There exists an independent audit office, but its role is considerably limited.
 2
 1

There does not exist an independent and effective audit office.
Audit Office
6
The audit office is an institution formally 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 and follow a comparable career path comparable to other judges. The audit office submits to the parliament an annual financial statement and the state’s balance sheet. Submissions of some of these financial statements have been delayed. For example, as of late 2018, the most recent financial statements available were those concerning 2014.

As in the case of selecting high-ranking judges, the government selects and appoints the audit office’s president and vice-presidents. Nonetheless, the audit office has detached itself from government control. For example, in June 2017 the audit office declared the freezing of civil servants’ pensions unconstitutional, a measure which had been part of the incumbent government’s plan to consolidate the state’s finances.

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. It remains to be seen if this change will help upgrade transparency in Greece’s public sector.

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

Does there exist an independent and effective ombuds office?

10
 9

There exists an effective and independent ombuds office.
 8
 7
 6


There exists an effective and independent ombuds office, but its advocacy role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


There exists an independent ombuds office, but its advocacy role is considerably limited.
 2
 1

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

The ombud 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 also inform the prosecutor’s office of any uncovered criminal offenses committed by administrative employees and officials. The ombuds office remains popular with Greek citizens, who turn to it in the frequent instances when they are treated unfairly or improperly by public services.

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

Is there an independent authority in place that effectively holds government offices accountable for handling issues of data protection and privacy?

10
 9

An independent and effective data protection authority exists.
 8
 7
 6


An independent and effective data protection authority exists, but its role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


A data protection authority exists, but both its independence and effectiveness are strongly limited.
 2
 1

There is no effective and independent data protection office.
Data Protection Authority
9
The Greek independent data protection office is the Hellenic Data Protection Authority (HDPA). The HDPA, established in 1997 through law 2472/1997, is also protected by the constitution. The HDPA grants individuals certain rights and imposes certain responsibilities on entities that process and store personal data. The president of HDPA (a high-ranking judge) and members of the authority are selected by the parliament for a four-year term. Generally, it is not a government-controlled authority. The HDPA implements EU and Greek law on personal data protection and has been very active in carrying out its tasks.

Citations:
Ιnformation on the Hellenic Data Protection Authority in English is available at http://www.dpa.gr/portal/page?_pageid=33,40911&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL
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