Greece

   

Executive Accountability

#23
Key Findings
With a mixed oversight record, Greece falls into the lower-middle ranks internationally (rank 23) with regard to executive accountability. Its score on this measure marks a gain of 0.5 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 is popular and widely used, 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 and infotainment-focused reporting. The Syriza government held tight control over the state-owned media, although the new government has loosened these reins. The private media sector is increasingly oligopolistic.

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, including refugees and migrants.

Citizens’ Participatory Competence

#35

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. Electoral turnout rates were high until the crisis began, but declined rapidly since (though relevant data should be treated with caution, as the electoral register has not been systematically updated). Greeks rarely turn to policymakers (i.e., government ministers and members of parliament) to voice their opinion on policies. Rather, they mostly rely on interest groups to do so on their behalf.

There is also a tradition in Greece of appealing to government ministers or members of parliament on an individual basis to obtain favors, such as the facilitation of 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 engage in patronage relations has not been adequately addressed. Upon ascending to government, 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, for their part, welcome this practice.

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

In this context, political participation in decision-making has not improved.

Citations:
The Ministry of Interior reports turnout in elections. The relevant percentage figures are available at the Ministry’s http://ekloges.ypes.gr. The open-government consultation site is available at www.opengov.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, all data produced by the revamped official statistical authority of Greece (Helstat) is accessible. This data is compiled and published according to Eurostat’s requirements. Reliable data is also available on public employment, including type of work contract and other information, via a separate website maintained by the Ministry of Administrative Reconstruction (Apografi). Moreover, thanks to a law on the issue of transparency, all administrative acts issued by the central, regional and local authorities and other public bodies (the Diavgeia system) are available online. Though this system is not very user-friendly, accessing the data is possible. The government that took power in July 2019 has announced that it would rapidly expand the digitalization of public services as part of an effort to enhance efficiency and transparency. To that effect, it established a new Ministry of Digital Governance, and also founded a new Government Authority on Transparency.

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

#14

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 up to two research advisers who are paid out of the parliament’s budget, and three other assistants who may be transferred from any ministry or state agency to the parliament. However, many members of parliament hire family members or friends who in effect do administrative and secretarial work rather than conducting research. This practice was continued in the period under review. Nevertheless, each party represented in parliament has its own research 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, which focuses 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 are frequently summoned to parliament and engage in intense debates with the opposition. As might be expected in a polarized party system, debates sometimes create a spectacle rather than providing a setting for the exchange rational arguments (especially when they are televised).

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
10
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). Recurrent disagreement in parliamentary committees reflects the long-term polarization in the Greek party system, as well as the broader mistrust and limited social capital that characterizes Greek society. However, in the period under review, parliamentary committees summoned many different experts, including technocrats, activists and academics. In fact, over time there has been increasing interaction between parliamentary committees and experts from many different academic fields and professions.

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 August 2018 reshuffle within the Syriza-ANEL coalition government in, the number of ministries was increased to 19. By contrast, the number of parliamentary committees remained the same: six standing committees. This discrepancy (19 ministries versus six committees) created 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 four special standing committees” (e.g., on European Affairs) and eight special permanent committees (e.g., on armament programs and contracts) with more specific agendas, as well as several subcommittees.

The task of monitoring ministries is undermined by 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 or of 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

Information on Committees of the Greek parliament is available here: https://www.hellenicparliament.gr/en/Koinovouleftikes-Epitropes/Katigories

Media

#26

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.

The Syriza-ANEL government, which lost the elections of July 2019, sought to tighten its control over state-owned media. The new government has by contrast started relaxing such control, although it remains too early to assess the government-appointed managers of the public broadcaster (ERT). Most importantly, an oligopolistic structure has taken shape in the media sector. In the period under review, one major television channel (Mega) went out of business, but its remaining assets were bought by a media mogul in late 2019. The same person had previously bought a corporation owning two major newspapers (To Vima, Ta Nea), and launched a new TV channel (One TV). Meanwhile, another new media mogul had bought a TV channel (Οpen TV) and two national newspapers (Ethnos, Hemeresia), while a third big business entrepreneur owns two other TV channels (Star TV, Alpha TV). Most of these privately owned channels have popularized infotainment, while marginalizing professional and in-depth reporting. Media owners often change sides, first favoring the government and then the opposition, while selectively highlighting certain issues depending on their business strategies.

Political debates in the media tend to be rather general, along partisan lines, while in-depth analysis is 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). 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

#25

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 on decision-making. As a result, after such parties decline electorally, there is no party organization to keep them alive. The ANEL party did not even participate in the national elections of July 2019, and ceased to exist. The same happened in late 2019 with the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, which failed to pass the 3% threshold in the 2019 elections, and – having no parliamentary representation – started disintegrating.

In the period under review, the union of parties of the center and center-left (PASOK and Potami, along with smaller parties), formed in November 2017, largely collapsed. In October 2019, PASOK proceeded to call an extraordinary party congress, the agenda and membership of which was completely controlled by the party leadership. The revival of intra-party life thus 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)
7
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 think tank, the Labor Institute (INE), for information and advice on policy matters. The SEV think tank is the Institute of Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE). Depending on the policy issue, this entity retains some autonomy from the leadership of SEV, and may promote the policy views of its own staff. The remainder of the large 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. The same holds for the General Confederation of Civil Servants (ADEDY), which recently revived its own think tank (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. After the government turnover of July 2019, the new government invited association representatives in various policy sectors for consultation, and showed visible interest in achieving consensus on prospective reforms.

Citations:
The opinions expressed by INE, a GSEE think tank 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 IOBE think tank 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 noneconomic 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 has been 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). However, after the government turnover of 2019, there was a renewed interest on the part of government officials to reach out to NGOs and public benefit foundations. Somewhat worryingly, some members of the new government have been quite critical of international NGOs operating in the country, and have expressed their willingness to monitor the sector through legal means.

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

#20

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 (Court of Audit) is an institution formally independent of the government and 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 to other judges. The Audit Office submits an annual financial statement and the state’s balance sheet to the parliament. Submissions of some of these financial statements have been delayed. For example, in late 2019, the most recent financial statements available were those concerning 2016.

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 it declared the freezing of civil servants’ pensions to be unconstitutional; this measure had been part of the 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. At the time of writing, it was still unclear whether this change would help enhance transparency in Greece’s public sector.

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

For more information on Court of Audit competences and activities see https://www.elsyn.gr/en/index.

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 ombudsperson is appointed by a group of high-ranking parliamentarians and obliged to report to the parliament by submitting an annual report.

The ombudsperson 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 Hellenic Data Protection Authority (HDPA) is Greece’s independent data protection office. 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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