Oct 9 2015

The crossroad of reforms for the Greek public administration

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By Anthony Makrydemetres, Panagiotis D. Zervopoulos and Maria-Eliana Pravita

The reform of Greek public administration in order to enhance efficiency is a key recommendation put forth by the OECD. Efficient public administration ensures both the optimal utilisation of the resources engaged by public bodies and the allocation of excessive public funds to civil society or to activities promoting economic growth. The reform of the ‘machinery of government’ toward the attainment of efficiency is one of the fundamental objectives of the Greek National Reforms Programme. This programme highlights the need for downsizing Greek public administration and reducing the resources utilised. Continue reading

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Jul 31 2015

Greece: the Paradox of power

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By Kevin Featherstone and Dimitris Papadimitriou

Why doesn’t Greece reform? Over the past few years the inability of successive Greek governments to deliver on the demands of international creditors has been a key feature of Greece’s bailout drama. Frustrated observers have pointed to various pathologies of the Greek political system to explain this underperformance: the lack of political will; entrenched sectoral interests resisting change; and the irrational allocation of resources skewed by clientelism and corruption. There is, of course, a significant element of truth in all these assertions. Yet, for many outsiders the real elephant in the room remains unnoticed. The endemic weaknesses of the Greek public administration are indeed crucial in understanding much of what has gone wrong over the past 5 years (and before). Back in 2010 the beleaguered Greek government had very little input into its own ‘rescue’. Lacking basic capabilities and running out of time, it almost entirely ‘sub-contracted’ the design of the bailout programme to the IMF, who, by its own admission, grossly overestimated the capacity of the domestic system to deliver. Unrealistic expectations were built on the assumption that an F1 driver will steer a Ferrari to perfection. In reality, it wasn’t a Ferrari but a rusty Trabant. Continue reading

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Jul 6 2015

Experts react: Greek referendum

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The final result of the Greek referendum saw 61.3 per cent of voters reject the proposal, with 38.7 per cent voting in favour. EUROPP’s contributors express their reactions to the result and what it could mean for Greece’s future in the Eurozone.

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Jul 3 2015

The IMF’s Preliminary Draft Debt Sustainability Analysis: what does it mean?



By Vassilis Monastiriotis

The release of the latest analysis by the IMF on the sustainability of the Greek debt, which states loudly that Greece will need not only a hefty new bailout but also a further debt restructuring, fueled again the literature, in traditional and social media, about the motives behind the insistence of the European institutions on continuing austerity. On a surface reading, the message is clear: if the debt is unsustainable, we either cut it or let Greece default; but we cannot expect the debt to become sustainable by imposing further austerity to Greece. Posts in social media proliferated, arguing that “the IMF knew this all along”, that “this shows how the Germans simply want to crush the Greek economy and society”, and how this is an admission that the debt-forgiveness arguments by Greece’s anti-austerity government are in reality accepted even by “its enemies”. [Incidentally, my friend Yiannis (with two ‘n’) has been telling me this for years now, well before the IMF finally ‘admitted’ to it.] Continue reading

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Jun 26 2015

When Populism Fails

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Kevin Oct 2013 croppedBy Kevin Featherstone

Some years ago at the start of the crisis, I wrote in ‘Kathimerini’ that Greece might have to experience a ‘catastrophe’ before it would truly reform and get onto a better economic path. I hoped that such an outcome might be avoided by the emergence of a broad reform coalition able to take the necessary measures. In the event, too many reforms were thwarted, not implemented, or their logic denied. This last week, we saw Greece and its creditors face the reality of catastrophe. The ground shook. Neither the government nor its European counterparts were up to the challenge: there were no heroes or villains, we were left to decry the mess both sides had created and we held our breath. And we still are: who knows what agreement will be finally secured and whether it can last? The ramifications are immense.

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Jun 10 2015

The negotiation that never happened…


by Vassilis Monastiriotis


There are – there have always been – two approaches to the Greek crisis. One, that realises that there is a domestic problem (high debt, propensity to produce new debts, state and market inefficiencies, weak institutions and export base) and many political and legal external constraints (no-bailout clause, belief in fiscal discipline and the ideology of structural reforms, the statutory clauses of the ECB and the IMF); and thus seeks to explore a possible set of arrangements that will enable a – least costly – solution. And a second one, which sees the crisis as the outcome of global capitalism, of antagonistic economic and political relations, of hierarchies and power struggles within the Eurozone, of pressures emanating from powerful (and neoliberal) elites, and as a means to attack human (and distinctively Greek) rights; thus favouring a confrontation approach that essentially refutes the existence of the problem in the first place.

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May 7 2015

The Golden Dawn trial is a legitimate criminal case, not political persecution

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By Emmanuel Melissaris

The trial of several members of the Greek political party Golden Dawn is set to resume on 7 May, with charges ranging from murder to participation in a criminal organisation.Emmanuel Melissaris writes on the legality of the trial and the accusation that it amounts to little more than the political persecution of the party. He argues that despite Golden Dawn’s protestations, from a legal perspective the trial is a legitimate criminal prosecution.

The trial of Golden Dawn members began in Athens on 20 April in tumultuous fashion with Golden Dawn supporters assaulting and injuring witnesses for the prosecution and a mainstream daily newspaperpublicising witnesses’ details. The trial was adjourned on procedural grounds (one of the defendants appeared without legal representation and the court had to appoint an advocate) and it resumes on 7 May.

Of the 69 defendants, many are charged as principal offenders or direct accomplices in a wide range of extremely serious crimes including murder, attempted murder, and serious assaults. The party leader as well as his close circle of high-ranking officials (including MPs) have been charged on the basis of Art.187 of the Greek Penal Code, which makes it a freestanding offence to set up or join and be a member of a long-term, structured criminal organisation of three or more members, which pursues the commission of a range of serious crimes.

This is a type of preparatory offence targeting the abstract endangerment of the public order by criminal organisations of the type that the article describes. It is therefore distinct from any type of complicity, i.e. the defendant participating in one way or another in the commission of the crime by the principal offender.

Golden Dawn supporters and sympathisers complain that this is not a prosecution for criminal offences but rather a political persecution. Two main arguments seem to be presented in support of this claim. First, that the law is applied abusively and, secondly, that the Art.187 charges amount to persecuting Golden Dawn members for their political beliefs. Neither argument stands up to scrutiny.

Is the Golden Dawn prosecution an abuse of the law?

A point of law that has been raised and is likely to be contested again in court is whether Art.187 applies to the facts of the case at all. The Act of Parliament (2928/2001) that amended Art.187 incorporated in domestic law the Palermo United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. The Palermo Convention targets financial crime specifically and it requires that the criminal group aim at committing serious crimes “in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit”. One of the members of the judicial council, which issued the indictment against Golden Dawn, dissented on the grounds that Art.187 should be construed by reading in the financial benefit requirement. A corollary argument is that international law enjoys superiority over domestic law.

This interpretation of the law is unfounded. The letter of the law itself does not include the benefit requirement. This is not an oversight on the part of the drafters. According to its title the Act aims at “protecting citizens from culpable acts of criminal organisations” and the ministerial introductory report explicitly states that the scope of the Act is wider than that of the Palermo Convention because the basic demerit lies in the pursuit of the commission of serious offences and the risks that this poses and not in the ulterior motive of making financial gain.

Now, one might argue that despite this unequivocally expressed legislative intent, Art.187 suffers from substantive problems because preparation offences, which amount to criminalising little more than thoughts and communications, are an affront to individuals’ autonomy. There may be some philosophical merit to this argument but, in order for it to have any bearing in legal practice, it must have some foothold in law. In Greek law, this would be expressed as an unconstitutionality objection. It is impossible to go into the details of the issue here but I do not see any grounds on which Art.187 is in violation of any constitutional principle or right.

Finally, it is hard to see why the argument from the superiority of the Palermo Convention as a source of law over domestic legislation would come into the picture at all. Art.187 is not in contravention of the Palermo Convention; it incorporates it in domestic law, thus discharging Greece’s duty to do so, but also goes further, which is entirely within the powers of the domestic legislator.

Are Golden Dawn members persecuted for their political beliefs?

Golden Dawn is a neo-Nazi party. They do not call themselves ‘Nazi’ but only because they consider the term historically specific to 1930s Germany. Neither do they call themselves National Socialist (which is nothing but the longer version of ‘Nazi’) any longer; they have rebranded themselves as simply ‘nationalist’. This makes no substantive difference though, because their ‘nationalism’ refers to the same construction of the idea of Greece that animated the Nazi party. Labels aside, their theoretical foundations as well as their practices are brimming with racist (including fervent anti-Semitic) theses, claims about ethnic purity and a number of other positions echoing National Socialism.

Despite its ideological platform, Golden Dawn enjoys full legal recognition in Greek law as a political party and is in fact represented in Parliament after having seen a surge in electoral popularity over the past five years. The objection raised by Golden Dawn supporters is that criminal law is used as a way of side-stepping the constitutional recognition of the party and effectively outlawing it because of its political theses.

Political parties enjoy legal protection against their forceful dissolution even when they explicitly pursue the peaceful abolition of the political regime. They are not, however, afforded absolute protection. In this respect Greek law departs from German law, which explicitly excludes political parties from the scope of§129 StGB, after which Art.187 was largely modelled. There is therefore no legal obstacle in prosecuting a political party should it operate as a criminal organisation.

The next question is whether there is a freestanding criminal law reason for prosecuting Golden Dawn members and holding them accountable as members of a criminal organisation. Much depends on the construction of Art.187 and, in particular, the mens rea requirement of pursuing the commission of serious crimes. This is not the intention to commit a specific crime (such cases are governed by other criminal laws) nor is it required that each member of the group intend to participate in the commission of future offences in a way which would have been independently culpable (as a principal offender or an accomplice).

According to the Supreme Civil and Criminal Court (the Areios Pagos), it is required that each member subjects her or his will to the group. Therefore, the intention to pursue serious crimes consists of a general manifest preparedness that the crimes be committed. This reading is corroborated by the nature of the offence as one of abstract endangerment of the public order. The practical upshot of this is that even if the party leader and his close circle try to wash their hands of the crimes actually committed by party members lower down in the hierarchy – and they have indeed been trying to do so from the outset, hanging out to dry those prosecuted as principal offenders or accomplices to the crimes actually committed – they are not inculpated in relation to their participation in the criminal group.

In terms of the evidence required, this preparedness can be inferred from the endorsement of declarations of the group, participation in its military structure and military-style training camps and so forth. While it is not possible to go into fact-finding issues here, there nevertheless seems to be an abundance of well-documented evidence in that direction.

Therefore, the complaint that the prosecution amounts to a persecution for political beliefs is unsubstantiated. Golden Dawn members have properly been prosecuted as members of a criminal organisation, which pursued a gamut of very serious crimes.

A political dimension

Although, as has been demonstrated, the Golden Dawn prosecution is exclusively a criminal law issue and not a political persecution, there is of course a political dimension to the matter. Golden Dawn has never shied away from the view that democracy and most institutions of the constitutional state should be abolished. They have also openly advocated ethnic purity and the evacuation of foreigners from Greek territory. Realising this kind of programme would entail actions that fall foul of legality. The abolition of democracy is, necessarily, always violent.

But one does not have to go this far and develop a complex philosophical argument regarding legitimacy, democracy and violence. Golden Dawn’s manifesto is premised, at the very least, on a priori denying certain parts of the population, both citizens and not, the right to be members of civil society and the political community. This exclusion is not only theoretical. It is necessarily manifested as the preparedness to exercise violence in order to physically exclude these segments of the population from the public sphere altogether. Therefore, Golden Dawn developed into a criminal organisation meeting the Art.187 description not because some of its members went rogue (this will be a line that they might use for the party to survive the conviction of its key officials) but because of its ideological foundations.

The legal order is based on the recognition of everyone as bearers of rights. Subjecting Golden Dawn to penal censure as a criminal organisation – which is, to repeat, independently justified as a matter of criminal law – is an indirect but firm institutional disapprobation of its undemocratic, violent disposition. It reaffirms the political community’s commitment to democracy and the unequivocal rejection of Nazism and other similar ideological platforms.

Note: This article was originally published on the EUROPP – European Politics and Policy Blog.  It gives the views of the author, and not the position of Greece@LSE  nor the London School of Economics.


About the author

Emmanuel Melissaris – LSE
Emmanuel Melissaris is an Associate Professor of law at the Law Department, London School of Economics. He specialises in legal and political philosophy and criminal law. He tweets @EMelissaris


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May 5 2015

The victory of Mustafa Akıncı in northern Cyprus gives hope to Turkish Cypriots of a better future

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Northern Cyprus held the second round of its presidential election on 26 April, with Mustafa Akıncı defeating the incumbent President, Derviş Eroğlu. Rebecca Bryant writes on what the result of the election might mean for the people of northern Cyprus and future negotiations with the Greek Cypriot-controlled Republic of Cyprus. She notes that while Akıncı’s victory has been met with euphoria on both sides of the island, all indications are that he will not only work toward a federation, but will also seek to defend the interests of Turkish Cypriots. Continue reading

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Mar 27 2015

Greek political culture has changed beyond recognition since the crisis began


gerasimoskaroulasSupport for individual political parties has changed substantially since the start of the crisis in Greece, with Syriza emerging as the largest party in the 2015 elections, while other parties, such as Pasok, have lost most of their support. But beyond the electoral success of parties, what effect has the crisis had on wider political culture within Greece? Gerasimos Karoulas writes that the crisis has also had a profound effect on the types of individuals holding political power. Time will tell, however, whether this change in the composition of the parliament and government will also lead to long-term policy changes. Continue reading

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Mar 27 2015

Both Greece and its creditors must compromise to prevent the risk of a Grexit

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codognolorenzoPaul-de-Grauwe-80x1081Greece and its creditors have been engaged in a two-month standoff over the release of further financial assistance to the country. Lorenzo Codogno and Paul De Grauwe write that with no agreement yet reached, the possibility of Greece leaving the euro has now become real. They argue that the only solution to the crisis is for both sides to compromise, with the Greek government accepting deep supply-side reforms, and Eurozone policymakers offering Greece a fair deal on the demand-side. Continue reading

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