Greece

   

Quality of Democracy

#24
Key Findings
Despite free and fair electoral procedures, Greece falls into the lower-middle ranks (rank 24) with regard to democracy quality. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

A recently passed law has somewhat improved the transparency of political-party funding, but monitoring has proved ineffective. The new government appears to be improving efforts to monitor services and bolster the rule of law across the administration. Judicial appointments became somewhat politicized under the Syriza-ANEL government.

The Syriza-ANEL government exerted considerable influence over the public broadcaster’s reporting, with performance improving after New Democracy government took office. Through the structure of media ownership is becoming increasingly oligopolistic, a wide variety of opinions remains available.

Women face workplace discrimination. Civil rights and political liberties are generally well protected, but refugees and migrants stranded in detention centers have suffered from very poor living conditions. As camps have been moved across Greece, local communities have reacted to refugees and migrants with hostility.

Electoral Processes

#20

How fair are procedures for registering candidates and parties?

10
 9

Legal regulations provide for a fair registration procedure for all elections; candidates and parties are not discriminated against.
 8
 7
 6


A few restrictions on election procedures discriminate against a small number of candidates and parties.
 5
 4
 3


Some unreasonable restrictions on election procedures exist that discriminate against many candidates and parties.
 2
 1

Discriminating registration procedures for elections are widespread and prevent a large number of potential candidates or parties from participating.
Candidacy Procedures
10
There is no discrimination in registration procedures nor are potential candidates or parties prevented from participating in elections. Exceptions include active military officers, who cannot run for office. Prison convicts are the only citizens that can face voting restrictions: prisoners serving either indefinite or life sentences are disqualified, otherwise the matter is left to the discretion of the sentencing court.

Before elections, parties and candidates are required to submit a petition to the highest civil and criminal court (Areios Pagos) which monitors formalities such as checking that no other parties have the same name.

The legality or fairness of elections is not challenged by parties nor candidates. Despite the acute political conflict with respect to the causes and management of the crisis, the conduct of electoral procedures in Greece is reliable. Indeed, the three parliamentary elections that took place in Greece in January and September 2015 and July 2019 were smoothly organized, and in budgetary terms, cost much less than previous national elections.

Citations:
Regulations for registering a candidate are listed in article 55 of the constitution, while incompatibilities are listed in articles 56, 57 and 58. For the relevant provisions of the constitution, translated into English, see http://www.venice.coe.int/VOTA/en/s tart.html [accessed on 11.05.2013].

To what extent do candidates and parties have fair access to the media and other means of communication?

10
 9

All candidates and parties have equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. All major media outlets provide a fair and balanced coverage of the range of different political positions.
 8
 7
 6


Candidates and parties have largely equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. The major media outlets provide a fair and balanced coverage of different political positions.
 5
 4
 3


Candidates and parties often do not have equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. While the major media outlets represent a partisan political bias, the media system as a whole provides fair coverage of different political positions.
 2
 1

Candidates and parties lack equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communications. The major media outlets are biased in favor of certain political groups or views and discriminate against others.
Media Access
9
Incumbent political parties represented either in the national parliament or the European Parliament have equal opportunities for media access. However, in the 2015 –2019 period, the country’s national public broadcaster (ERT) primarily, if not exclusively, communicated the views of the Syriza-ANEL government coalition, as it had done until 2014 with its previous political masters, the PASOK and ND governments.

Private media are also selective in their reporting and many are sensationalist. Importantly, though, neither the state nor the private media air the opinions of the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn. The party won parliamentary representation in the 2012 elections, and repeated its success by obtaining 7% of the vote in the two parliamentary elections of 2015. However, in the elections of July 2019, it fell below the threshold of 3% and thus did not elect any members of parliament.

Citations:
The trade union managed radio station’s website is http://www.ertopen.com/

To what extent do all citizens have the opportunity to exercise their right of participation in national elections?

10
 9

All adult citizens can participate in national elections. All eligible voters are registered if they wish to be. There are no discriminations observable in the exercise of the right to vote. There are no disincentives to voting.
 8
 7
 6


The procedures for the registration of voters and voting are for the most part effective, impartial and nondiscriminatory. Citizens can appeal to courts if they feel being discriminated. Disincentives to voting generally do not constitute genuine obstacles.
 5
 4
 3


While the procedures for the registration of voters and voting are de jure non-discriminatory, isolated cases of discrimination occur in practice. For some citizens, disincentives to voting constitute significant obstacles.
 2
 1

The procedures for the registration of voters or voting have systemic discriminatory effects. De facto, a substantial number of adult citizens are excluded from national elections.
Voting and Registration Rights
10
Voting in Greece is mandatory by law. However, it is rarely enforced. In July 2016, the Greek parliament voted to lower the minimum voting age to 17 years. There is neither discrimination in the exercise of the right to vote nor any disincentive for voting. Upon being born, Greeks are registered in the municipality where their family resides. These records serve as lists of citizens eligible to vote. There is, however, a need to clean these records to remove persons who are deceased or have permanently migrated to other countries. Thus, the records include names of persons who will never turn out to vote. The result is that election turnout rates are calculated based on an aggregate that is much higher than the actual number of eligible voters.

To what extent is private and public party financing and electoral campaign financing transparent, effectively monitored and in case of infringement of rules subject to proportionate and dissuasive sanction?

10
 9

The state enforces that donations to political parties are made public and provides for independent monitoring to that respect. Effective measures to prevent evasion are effectively in place and infringements subject to effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions.
 8
 7
 6


The state enforces that donations to political parties are made public and provides for independent monitoring. Although infringements are subject to proportionate sanctions, some, although few, loopholes and options for circumvention still exist.
 5
 4
 3


The state provides that donations to political parties shall be published. Party financing is subject to some degree of independent monitoring but monitoring either proves regularly ineffective or proportionate sanctions in case of infringement do not follow.
 2
 1

The rules for party and campaign financing do not effectively enforce the obligation to make the donations public. Party and campaign financing is neither monitored independently nor, in case of infringements, subject to proportionate sanctions.
Party Financing
6
Party financing for national elections is regulated by law 4304/2014, which adheres to guidelines established by the Council of Europe, constrains the size of budget outlays to parties, increases transparency regarding donations to parties and bars the practice of parties’ obtaining bank loans against future revenue which the parties expect to receive from the state. Every year, the interior minister issues a ministerial ordinance which distributes funds to parties which have received at least 1.5% of the total vote in the most recent elections.

Ιn the past, state-owned and private banks lent millions of euros to Greek political parties. However, the banks proved unable to force the parties repay their loans, as successive governments protected over-indebted parties. For example, while the aforementioned 2014 law provided that banks could confiscate assets from political parties up to 90% of the debt owed to them, in July 2017 the Syriza-ANEL coalition government reduced this value to 60% of the total debt owed.

A new state committee tasked with monitoring electoral campaign spending was established by an August 2016 decision of the Greek parliament. Under pressure from the Council of Europe and other international organizations, Greece has over time improved national legislation on party financing. Νew legislation was passed during the period under review (laws 4472/2017 and 4509/2017). This legislation was necessary because previous reform efforts had not been fully implemented. Despite improvements, there remains an implementation gap regarding rules for party financing; Greece’s record on this front remains mixed.

For the most part, monitoring remains ineffective, and the real sources of party financing are not fully known. This inefficiency is attributable to both the governing and opposition parties. For instance, in 2018, the parliamentary committee in charge of controlling party finances asked all parties to reveal the names of sponsors who had donated more than €5,000. However, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) refused to submit any relevant information.

Citations:
The reactions of the Council of Europe to Greece’s changing legislation are available at https://www.coe.int/en/web/greco/-/greece-council-of-europe-anti-corruption-group-offers-praise-and-criticism

Do citizens have the opportunity to take binding political decisions when they want to do so?

10
 9

Citizens have the effective opportunity to actively propose and take binding decisions on issues of importance to them through popular initiatives and referendums. The set of eligible issues is extensive, and includes national, regional, and local issues.
 8
 7
 6


Citizens have the effective opportunity to take binding decisions on issues of importance to them through either popular initiatives or referendums. The set of eligible issues covers at least two levels of government.
 5
 4
 3


Citizens have the effective opportunity to vote on issues of importance to them through a legally binding measure. The set of eligible issues is limited to one level of government.
 2
 1

Citizens have no effective opportunity to vote on issues of importance to them through a legally binding measure.
Popular Decision-Making
2
No effective opportunity to vote on important issues was available to Greeks in the last few years. While referendums are provided for in the constitution, the government’s surprise decision in July 2015 to launch a referendum destabilized the economy and negatively affected relations between Greece and its euro area partners. The referendum was held on the European Commission’s draft proposal of reforms for Greece, while negotiations were still under way. Prime Minister Tsipras rejected this proposal, launched the referendum and won with 61% of votes. A week later, however, the prime minister accepted all reforms planned by the European Commission. Realizing that the Greek state’s coffers were empty, he accepted a bailout package of €86 billion with severe conditions. The Syriza-ANEL government had gambled with a referendum and had miscalculated the consequences of the referendum’s outcome. This unfortunate, if not awkward, handling of the referendum has diminished the prospect of citizens being able to vote on issues of importance to them at least in the near future.

Citations:
Τhe conduct of referendums in Greece is regulated by article 44 of the constitution and Law 4023/2011.

Access to Information

#25

To what extent are the media independent from government?

10
 9

Public and private media are independent from government influence; their independence is institutionally protected and fully respected by the incumbent government.
 8
 7
 6


The incumbent government largely respects the independence of media. However, there are occasional attempts to exert influence.
 5
 4
 3


The incumbent government seeks to ensure its political objectives indirectly by influencing the personnel policies, organizational framework or financial resources of public media, and/or the licensing regime/market access for private media.
 2
 1

Major media outlets are frequently influenced by the incumbent government promoting its partisan political objectives. To ensure pro-government media reporting, governmental actors exert direct political pressure and violate existing rules of media regulation or change them to benefit their interests.
Media Freedom
6
The financial crisis, and the continuing decline in circulation and advertising has strained Greece’s media sector. Numerous media outlets have shut down, reduced staff and salaries, scaled down or eliminated news departments, or failed to pay wages. These developments have made media outlets more susceptible to government influence.

In the period under review, especially during the electoral campaigns leading to the European Parliament elections of May 2019 and the national parliamentary elections of July 2019, the public broadcaster’s (ERT TV) television channels adopted a clearly pro-government bias across all news programming, openly supporting the two government coalition partners, Syriza and ANEL. News presenters toed the government line on almost all issues, with invited commentators often following a solid government line. This trend was disquieting in view of the government’s earlier attempt to control the private television sector as well, though this attempt was ultimately aborted between September and December 2016. In late 2018 an auction of nationwide TV licenses was conducted under the auspices of the independent National Council for Radio and Television, and five such private licenses were handed out.

The public broadcaster’s performance improved after the government turnover of July 2019, even though the journalist appointed as head of the broadcaster in August 2019 was a close associate of the new prime minister (the leader of the New Democracy party, Kyriakos Mitsotakis). As a consequence of the Syriza-ANEL coalition’s intense meddling in the television sector and with the press more generally for most of the period under review, Greece was ranked 65th out of 180 countries in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index, although there was some improvement compared to the 2018 ranking (78/180).

The targeted purchase of advertisements from specific media outlets, a typical means by Greek governments of influencing reporting, was also seen in the period under review. In July 2018, following deadly wildfires in Mati, Syriza and ANEL announced that members of their parties would not participate in any programs on Skai TV and Radio, accusing the broadcasters of systematic anti-government reporting surrounding the disaster. In response, the opposition New Democracy party announced that its members would not make appearances on public television.

Citations:
The information on Greece’s ranking on the Word Press Freedom index is available at https://rsf.org/en/ranking

To what extent are the media characterized by an ownership structure that ensures a pluralism of opinions?

10
 9

Diversified ownership structures characterize both the electronic and print media market, providing a well-balanced pluralism of opinions. Effective anti-monopoly policies and impartial, open public media guarantee a pluralism of opinions.
 8
 7
 6


Diversified ownership structures prevail in the electronic and print media market. Public media compensate for deficiencies or biases in private media reporting by representing a wider range of opinions.
 5
 4
 3


Oligopolistic ownership structures characterize either the electronic or the print media market. Important opinions are represented but there are no or only weak institutional guarantees against the predominance of certain opinions.
 2
 1

Oligopolistic ownership structures characterize both the electronic and the print media market. Few companies dominate the media, most programs are biased, and there is evidence that certain opinions are not published or are marginalized.
Media Pluralism
5
There are a large number of electronic and print media organizations, but the structure of ownership has become increasingly oligopolistic with strong cross-ownership across media formats. In a country of 11 million inhabitants, there are more than 120 analog private TV stations with a national, regional or local license. There are also approximately 950 regional/local radio stations.

The Greek media landscape is shaped by media groups controlled by magnates, ship owners and large contractors. However, the exact ownership structure of media outlets is concealed by holding companies and little-known entities listed in official records; no exact ownership information is available. Extensive cross-media ownership is common and this has negatively affected media independence. Wealthy businessmen with interests in shipping, telecommunications and other industries dominate the largest private television, radio and social media channels.

The most dominant television channels (Antenna, Star and Skai) attract the majority of viewers, as they offer popular shows and infotainment. In the period under review, the owners of Star channel acquired the financially ailing Alpha TV, increasing their influence in the media sector. Owners of television channels also hold majority shares in national daily newspapers.

Between June and September 2016, the Syriza-ANEL government attempted to control the private media landscape by passing a law that would allow only four nationwide television channels to operate across the country. The law was eventually annulled in October 2016 by Greece’s Supreme Administrative Court (StE). Finally, in late 2018, an auction of nationwide TV licenses was conducted, and five such private licenses were sold.

Electronic media is also flourishing in the form of websites and blogs. There are an unknown number of anti-establishment electronic media. Some of them have become critical of Syriza and ANEL after the coalition government failed to follow up on their pre-electoral promises.

The print media landscape is also pluralistic. There are 59 national newspapers and around 500 regional/local ones. However, between 1990 and 2008, circulation dropped by 50%. There are at least three pro-government Athens-based daily newspapers, while a similar number are critical of the government. In the beginning of 2017, the Syriza-ANEL government tried to gain indirect control of a major but heavily indebted press group, the Lambrakis group (DOL), through the attempt of a pro-government Greek-Russian tycoon to buy DOL. Eventually, the highest bidder was another tycoon who is not linked to the government but who already controls Greece’s richest soccer team (Olympiacos) and has business interests in shipping and other sectors. In other words, even though the left/nationalist-right coalition government’s attempt to constrain private media has failed, the overall oligopolistic nature of the media sector has probably changed for the worse.

Further tendencies toward the consolidation of an oligopolistic media structure were evident in the period under review, as new media moguls opened new TV stations (One TV, Open TV), supporting football teams in which the stations’ owners were major shareholders and seeking to influence the country’s political landscape.

While Greece lacks an effective anti-monopoly policy for the media business, the media actually do indeed report a wide range of opinions. The government voices its opinions through the state-owned television broadcaster (ERT) and friendly newspapers and radio stations. The opposition has a voice in the media, as political party leaders participate daily in state and private television and radio programs. Small circulation newspapers attract readers by printing unsubstantiated accusations regarding politicians and businessmen. Regardless of their political profile, some marginal newspapers do not refrain from publishing news which, at times, border on smear campaigns against political opponents.

Citations:
Information and analysis on media cross-ownership and newspaper circulation in 1990-2008 is drawn on Nikos Leandros, “Media Concentration and Systemic Failures in Greece,” International Journal of Communication, vol 4, 2010, pp. 886-905.

Index on Censorship Report on Greece 2017 https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2017/12/greece-journalists-under-golden-dawns-pressure/

To what extent can citizens obtain official information?

10
 9

Legal regulations guarantee free and easy access to official information, contain few, reasonable restrictions, and there are effective mechanisms of appeal and oversight enabling citizens to access information.
 8
 7
 6


Access to official information is regulated by law. Most restrictions are justified, but access is sometimes complicated by bureaucratic procedures. Existing appeal and oversight mechanisms permit citizens to enforce their right of access.
 5
 4
 3


Access to official information is partially regulated by law, but complicated by bureaucratic procedures and some poorly justified restrictions. Existing appeal and oversight mechanisms are often ineffective.
 2
 1

Access to official information is not regulated by law; there are many restrictions of access, bureaucratic procedures and no or ineffective mechanisms of enforcement.
Access to Government Information
8
Citizens’ free and easy access to official information has been regulated since 1986. Two laws passed in 2006 and 2010 provide for the creation of an electronic system allowing access to any public document. Officials are required to make declarations of their assets and income public. There are a few reasonable access restrictions pertaining to matters of national security and defense.

There are effective mechanisms of appeal and oversight enabling citizens to access information. First, there are administrative courts, including the Supreme Administrative Court (StE, Symvoulio tis Epikrateias). Second, there is the ombuds office, established in 1997. Unfortunately, owing to work overload, administrative courts can take a long time to decide on a case, but the ombuds office represents a well-managed mechanism of appeal and oversight. The ombudsman can demand that any public service respond to a citizen’s right to information, even though ministries themselves tend to be quite unresponsive to citizen requests.

Α law passed in July 2010, known as Diavgeia (clarity), required all public authorities to upload to an electronic platform all administrative acts, laws, decrees and circular. Thus, the scope of access to official information was drastically expanded. In October 2014, the Greek government passed a new law which further expanded access to public documents and adapted Greek legislation to the Directive no. 2013/37/ΕΕ of the EU’s Council of Ministers. A new codification of all relevant legislation took place in March 2015, without practically changing any regulations. Since then no significant changes have been observed in this policy area.

Citations:
The four most important laws regulating access to information are Law 1599/1986, Law 3448/2006, Law 3861/2010 (the “Diavgeia” law), and Law 4305/2014. Presidential Decree 28/2015 codified all previous legislation on access to information and was issued in March 2015.

Civil Rights and Political Liberties

#15

To what extent does the state respect and protect civil rights and how effectively are citizens protected by courts against infringements of their rights?

10
 9

All state institutions respect and effectively protect civil rights. Citizens are effectively protected by courts against infringements of their rights. Infringements present an extreme exception.
 8
 7
 6


The state respects and protects rights, with few infringements. Courts provide protection.
 5
 4
 3


Despite formal protection, frequent infringements of civil rights occur and court protection often proves ineffective.
 2
 1

State institutions respect civil rights only formally, and civil rights are frequently violated. Court protection is not effective.
Civil Rights
6
Civil rights are protected by and included in the constitution (passed in 1975 and amended in 1986, 2001, and 2008) and the criminal code. Judges are tenured and cannot be removed nor transferred by incoming governments. Courts guarantee the protection of life, freedom and property and protect all individuals against illegitimate arrest, exile, terror, torture or unjustifiable intervention into personal life. Greek citizens enjoy equal access to the law and are treated equally by the law. Notably, despite intense political conflict since the start of the economic crisis (2010), Greek democracy has continued to function and the courts have administered justice, albeit with very significant delays. Judges are unable to handle the constant overflow of cases, while lack of digital infrastructure and modern management methods aggravate the situation.

There are rare cases of officials failing to uphold the law as far as human rights protection are concerned. Such cases, which have occurred in detention centers for migrants and in prisons, have acquired wide publicity, but have taken a long time to be processed by the courts system. Independent control mechanisms, such as free media, NGOs and social movements, are very sensitive to such violations.

Little progress has been made in a major trial against militants of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party. Several members of Golden Dawn were accused of assassinating a left-wing rap singer in September 2013, but did not stand trial until November 2015. At the time of writing, the trial was still under way.

In the meantime, the living conditions of migrants and asylum-seekers, stranded in detention centers on Greek islands, have not improved. Many reception centers are overstretched as more than 200 people continue to arrive every day, 40% of them are children. Camps suffer from inadequate facilities, violence and harassment of women. In the period under review, there was international outcry against the Greek government’s tolerance of inhuman conditions in the Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesbos. The outcry was intensified in September 2019 after a woman died in a deadly fire in that camp. Similarly intolerable conditions were observed on the islands of Samos and Symi in the summer of 2019. However, starting in October 2019, the government began actively relocating refugees and migrants to better and smaller camps around mainland Greece.

In summary, the state protects civil rights, but organizational and bureaucratic obstacles in practice stand in the way of the comprehensive protection of these rights, particularly with regard to migrants and asylum-seekers. Very recent efforts by the government that took power in July 2019 have begun to alleviate this situation.

Citations:
Information on the dismal conditions of the refugee of Moria (on Lesbos island) is drawn on the New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/02/world/europe/greece-lesbos-moria-refugees.html and also on the Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/05/the-truth-about-the-fire-in-greeces-notorious-refugee-camp

To what extent does the state concede and protect political liberties?

10
 9

All state institutions concede and effectively protect political liberties.
 8
 7
 6


All state institutions for the most part concede and protect political liberties. There are only few infringements.
 5
 4
 3


State institutions concede political liberties but infringements occur regularly in practice.
 2
 1

Political liberties are unsatisfactory codified and frequently violated.
Political Liberties
10
The constitution extends strong protections to political liberties, including the right to vote, to think and speak freely, to assemble and demonstrate, to organize in collectives such as unions and associations and to submit petitions requiring a timely response by the competent authorities. However, during the period under review, the realization that the Syriza-ANEL government was following in the steps of previous governments on economic and social policy led to protests, for instance by old-age pensioners, which at various times were suppressed by police forces.

In the period under review, before and after the parliamentary elections of July 2019, small anarchist groups in large cities subverted the law, sporadically attacking foreign embassies as well as the homes of judges and journalists with whom they politically disagreed. The left/nationalist-right coalition government tolerated these attacks on the rule of law, essentially restricting the rights of the targeted citizens. The mayor of Thessaloniki (Greece’s second largest city) was physically attacked by members of a far-right group, and similar groups verbally attacked pro-government parliamentarians and government ministers.

Small radical leftist groups periodically turn violent and attack law enforcement officers. They also sometimes close down university buildings by occupying them in protest against government measures they oppose. It is not the state, but rather uncontrolled groups of extremists that have begun to restrict political rights such as the freedom of opinion.

In this context, it is commendable that the new government regarded the issues of safety and security in large cities as taking a high priority. For example, in the fall of 2019, the police evacuated buildings that had been used as springboards by the both of the aforementioned groups to play havoc with daily life in a few neighborhoods in downtown Athens.

Greece’s largest recognized minority population, the Muslim minority of Western Thrace, has full political rights; four members of the community won seats in the last parliamentary elections. However, the authorities have rejected some ethnic minorities’ attempts to register associations with names referring to their ethnic identity. Since 2010, documented immigrants have been allowed to vote in municipal elections.

The right to worship is limited by constitutionally imposed impediments on proselytizing religious dogmas other than Greek Orthodox Christianity. For years, successive governments were reluctant to allow the establishment of places of worship. For example, the Muslim community of Athens still does not have an officially recognized place of worship (i.e., a state recognized mosque). In autumn 2015, the government proclaimed three makeshift Islamic places of worship legal, although hundreds of other places continued to function without a legal permit. In autumn 2016, the Greek government made available a public space in Athens for the construction of a mosque and in July 2017 the parliament, with 206 votes in favor and 24 against, approved a bill that set aside €946,000 of public funds for the construction. The mosque was finally inaugurated in early June 2019.

Citations:
Freedom House Greece Profile 2018 https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2018/greece

How effectively does the state protect against different forms of discrimination?

10
 9

State institutions effectively protect against and actively prevent discrimination. Cases of discrimination are extremely rare.
 8
 7
 6


State anti-discrimination protections are moderately successful. Few cases of discrimination are observed.
 5
 4
 3


State anti-discrimination efforts show limited success. Many cases of discrimination can be observed.
 2
 1

The state does not offer effective protection against discrimination. Discrimination is widespread in the public sector and in society.
Non-discrimination
7
Protection against discrimination on the basis of race has been regulated since 1979, while protection against gender discrimination is regulated by the family law passed in 1983. The European Union’s legislative acts also provide protection from gender discrimination. However, legislation against discrimination has rarely been implemented effectively. Women in particular, though theoretically enjoying equality before the law, continue to face workplace discrimination in practice. The Romany minority (numbering probably more than 200,000) is also subject to discrimination despite legal protections.

In the years since 2015, the outcry against racism and the rise to power of a left-wing party, Syriza, contributed to a decline in discrimination. In fact, the opposite of racist discrimination – namely tolerance, solidarity and support of foreigners – was observed in the summer and the fall of 2015, when Greece received a vast inflow of refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan (210,000 refugees arrived in and passed through Greece in the month of October alone). In January 2018, the parliament adopted legislation that limited the jurisdiction of muftis applying Shariah principles to family-law disputes among Muslims in Thrace (in December of the same year, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the system in place prior to the legal change was discriminatory).

Greece has seen significant improvement in the protection of LGBTI rights in recent years. New legislation passed between 2015 and 2017 grants extensive rights to same-sex couples, and recognizes self-proclaimed gender identities for people experiencing gender dysphoria.

In the autumn of 2019, the sudden new influx of refugees and migrants to Greece took the government and the population by surprise. The inflow provoked negative reactions within many communities of small towns and villages, particularly when reception centers for refugees and migrants had been built in their vicinities. A general climate of unfriendliness, if not outright hostility, toward refugees and migrants had at this point become palpable in communities scattered around Greece.

Citations:
Family relations are regulated through law 1329/1982, while anti-discrimination legislation is found in law 927/1079 (amended in 2001 to facilitate the intervention of prosecuting authorities against trespassers). European Union law, naturally also applicable in Greece, regulates gender discrimination. See, for instance, the Gender Directive, officially known as Council Directive 2004/113/EC of 13 December 2004.

Information on protection of LGBTI rights is available from https://www.ilga-europe.org/resources/news/latest-news/greece-gender-recognition-law-oct2017

Rule of Law

#26

To what extent do government and administration act on the basis of and in accordance with legal provisions to provide legal certainty?

10
 9

Government and administration act predictably, on the basis of and in accordance with legal provisions. Legal regulations are consistent and transparent, ensuring legal certainty.
 8
 7
 6


Government and administration rarely make unpredictable decisions. Legal regulations are consistent, but leave a large scope of discretion to the government or administration.
 5
 4
 3


Government and administration sometimes make unpredictable decisions that go beyond given legal bases or do not conform to existing legal regulations. Some legal regulations are inconsistent and contradictory.
 2
 1

Government and administration often make unpredictable decisions that lack a legal basis or ignore existing legal regulations. Legal regulations are inconsistent, full of loopholes and contradict each other.
Legal Certainty
8
The state administration operates on the basis of a legal framework that is extensive, complex, fragmented and sometimes contradictory. Formalism dominates legislation. Legal regulations are often not consistently applied. Acts passed by parliament often have seemingly extraneous items added, which only confuses things further.

Since the start of the economic crisis, because of the pressing need to achieve fiscal consolidation, the government repeatedly adapted past legislation to changing circumstances. Many changes have been made to areas such as taxation which, though necessary, have not fostered an institutional environment conducive to attracting foreign investment. Moreover, because of the need to effect reforms rapidly, the government resorted to governing by decree after passing legislation which left ample room for discretion. This practice was exacerbated in 2014 by the ND-PASOK coalition government and has been vigorously continued by the Syriza-ANEL government since early 2015 (i.e., after the change in government). After the government turnover of July 2019, the new, single-majority government passed a law reorganizing the top echelons of the government and the monitoring of public services with the intention of bolstering the rule of law across the administration (law 4622/2019). This campaign appears to be far better planned than previous haphazard efforts in this area, but its results remain to be seen.

The practice of frequently amending recently passed legislation has continued unabated. On average, a new law is voted on by the Greek parliament every week (according to research by the Athens-based Dianeosis organization). Given such uncoordinated overregulation, the legal framework in major policy sectors, such as the regulations governing taxation and foreign investment, still exhibits loopholes and contradictions that have negatively impacted legal certainty.

Citations:
The research report of the Athens-based privately owned research organization “Dianeosis” is available (in Greek) at https://www.dianeosis.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/polynomia_final2.pdf

To what extent do independent courts control whether government and administration act in conformity with the law?

10
 9

Independent courts effectively review executive action and ensure that the government and administration act in conformity with the law.
 8
 7
 6


Independent courts usually manage to control whether the government and administration act in conformity with the law.
 5
 4
 3


Courts are independent, but often fail to ensure legal compliance.
 2
 1

Courts are biased for or against the incumbent government and lack effective control.
Judicial Review
8
Courts are independent of the government and the legislature. Members of the judiciary are promoted through the internal hierarchy of the judiciary. There is an exception, namely the appointment of the presidents and vice-presidents of the highest civil and criminal law court (Areios Pagos) and administrative law court (Symvoulio tis Epikrateias), for which a different process is followed. The heads of such courts are selected by the cabinet (the Council of Ministers) from a list supplied by the highest courts themselves. In the past, such higher judges were clearly supporters of the government of the day. Successive governments, including the incumbent left/far-right coalition government of Syriza-ANEL, have not resisted the temptation to handpick their favored candidates for the president posts of the highest courts. Notwithstanding, judges at all levels serve until retirement age and cannot be removed arbitrarily.

Judges are recruited through independent entrance examinations and then trained in a post-graduate level educational institution. The court system is self-managed. In a formal sense, courts in Greece are able to monitor whether government and administration act in conformity with the law.

Whether courts do so efficiently is another matter, because they cannot ensure legal compliance. They act with delays and pass contradictory judgments, owing to the plethora of laws and opaque character of regulations. In the period under review, prosecuting authorities followed the government’s line in primarily, if not exclusively, investigating accusations of corruption against members of previous governments. For example, in February 2018, prosecutors submitted documentation to parliament for launching criminal investigations for corruption against two former prime ministers and eight former ministers, all of whom had served before 2015 (i.e., before the rise of Syriza-ANEL). The evidence and legal basis of the accusations were too flimsy to allow for any investigation to actually take place. Also, the high courts did not toe the government line when they decided that major clauses of the latest pension law (passed in 2016) were unconstitutional. More broadly, the period under review saw a tug-of-war between the government and the justice system, rendering judicial review a sensitive and unpredictable process. This pattern was continued into the second half of 2019, when courts again overturned several clauses of the recently passed pension legislation, dubbing them unconstitutional.

To what extent does the process of appointing (supreme or constitutional court) justices guarantee the independence of the judiciary?

10
 9

Justices are appointed in a cooperative appointment process with special majority requirements.
 8
 7
 6


Justices are exclusively appointed by different bodies with special majority requirements or in a cooperative selection process without special majority requirements.
 5
 4
 3


Justices are exclusively appointed by different bodies without special majority requirements.
 2
 1

All judges are appointed exclusively by a single body irrespective of other institutions.
Appointment of Justices
6
Before the onset of the crisis, the appointment of justices was almost exclusively managed by the government. Today, candidates for the presidency of the highest civil and criminal law court (Areios Pagos) and administrative law court (Symvoulio tis Epikrateias) as well as the audit office are nominated by justices themselves. Then the lists of candidates are submitted to a higher-ranking organ of the parliament, the Conference of the Presidents of the Greek parliament. This is an all-party institution which submits an opinion to the Cabinet of Ministers, the institution which appoints justices at the highest posts of the courts mentioned above. Between 2011 and 2014, the government applied the seniority principle in selecting justices to serve at the highest echelons of the justice system. In 2015, the principle of seniority was partly curbed as the new president of the Areios Pagos court was not the court’s most senior member. The same occurred in fall 2017 when the same government appointed a new president, selecting a younger justice over older candidates for the presidency. Meanwhile, the previous president, who had been selected by the Syriza-ANEL government in 2015, had retired and in the summer of 2017 joined the office of Prime Minister Tsipras (the Prime Minister’s Office) as a legal adviser. Under Syriza-ANEL’s rule, the selection and appointment of judges has probably become more politicized.

In this respect, it is telling that just prior to the July 2019 parliamentary elections, the Syriza-ANEL government appointed new heads for the Areios Pagos Court and the General Prosecutor’s Office. This initiative provoked an additional last-minute conflict with the government in waiting, the New Democracy party, which had long held a clear lead in the polls. Eventually, the president of the republic refused to sign off on the Syriza-ANEL government’s decisions just before elections were held. The process of selecting and appointing these high-level judges and prosecutors was repeated in the parliament that was convened after the elections.

Citations:
Law 2841/2010 stipulates that the appointment of presidents and vice-presidents of the highest courts requires the non-binding opinion of the high-ranking parliamentary committee titled Conference of the Presidents of the Greek parliament.

WJP Rule of Law Index 2017-8 https://worldjusticeproject.org/our-work/wjp-rule-law-index/wjp-rule-law-index-2017%E2%80%932018

To what extent are public officeholders prevented from abusing their position for private interests?

10
 9

Legal, political and public integrity mechanisms effectively prevent public officeholders from abusing their positions.
 8
 7
 6


Most integrity mechanisms function effectively and provide disincentives for public officeholders willing to abuse their positions.
 5
 4
 3


Some integrity mechanisms function, but do not effectively prevent public officeholders from abusing their positions.
 2
 1

Public officeholders can exploit their offices for private gain as they see fit without fear of legal consequences or adverse publicity.
Corruption Prevention
5
After Syriza’s rise to power in January 2015, the earlier lack of resolve among political and administrative elites to control corruption was reversed. However, the Syriza-ANEL coalition was undecided on how to steer anti-corruption policy. In January 2015, a new post of Minister for Anti-Corruption was established; in September the post was abolished and a post of Deputy Minister for Anti-Corruption was created and subsumed under the supervision of the Minister of Justice. A new General Secretariat on Anti-Corruption was created under the aforementioned minister but remains understaffed.

Instability has plagued anti-corruption mechanisms. In March 2017, the resignation and replacement of Greece’s very experienced anti-corruption prosecutor (a new post established in 2011) was a setback for the government’s anti-corruption policy. The prosecutor’s resignation reflected tensions between the government and the judiciary, and complicated relations between the different prosecuting authorities entrusted with fighting corruption. Meanwhile, between 2016 and 2017, the laxity with which government ministers dealt with issues of corruption among members of the civil service sent the wrong message to past and future offenders.

After 2015, the justice system intensified its efforts, not so much to prevent as to punish corruption. In the most important trial, Akis Tsochatzopoulos, the former minister of defense and deputy prime minister of the PASOK governments of the 1990s, was accused of receiving large kickbacks for armament deals. In November 2017, he was sentenced to prison and received a very large fine from an Athens-based second-instance criminal court. In the period under review, Yannos Papantoniou, former minister of finance and former minister of defense, was arrested on charges of corruption (for bribes related to armaments deals) and has remained in prison awaiting trial.

However, the Syriza-ANEL’s February 2018 drive to open criminal investigations against two former prime ministers and eight ministers who had served in governments prior to Syriza’s rise backfired. The criminal investigation was not based on adequate evidence, and quickly ran into legal obstacles. Ultimately it was abandoned altogether. After the elections of July 2019, a several of the politicians accused of wrongdoing sought to clear their names, and further asked that Syriza government officials and public prosecutors who had worked under their instructions themselves be investigated by a parliamentary committee put in place in October 2019.

Generally, Greece’s system of anti-corruption policies and mechanisms has not been stabilized. According to a July 2017 report by the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV), the state has shown a fragmentary approach, as well as a lack of determination in combating corruption and promoting transparency in six kinds of state bodies: ministries, town planning authorities, municipal authorities, courts, custom offices, and economic and trade offices at Greek embassies abroad. Moreover, most institutions tasked with combating corruption are not furnished with sufficient resources to accomplish their tasks.

Citations:
For the ranking of Greece by Transparency International in 2016 and 2017, see https://www.transparency.org/country/GRC and https://www.transparency.org/news/feature/corruption_perceptions_index_2016#table
For the SEV report, see
http://www.sev.org.gr/Uploads/Documents/50462/Special_Report_25_7_2017.pdf
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