Greek democracy faces reckoning after its own Watergate

When the illegal surveillance scandal exploded into the Greek public realm in August, hardly anyone – not even the victims themselves – foresaw its far-reaching implications.

It all started innocuously enough.

In early spring, Thanasis Koukakis, a well-known financial journalist in Greece, said his mobile phone was tapped with the Israeli-made Predator spyware.

At the time, his assertions garnered minimal interest, with just a handful of journalists’ association giving the matter any real attention.

Things escalated a notch in late July when Nikos Androulakis, leader of the PASOK-KINAL opposition party and a member of the European Parliament, revealed that he was also targeted with the Predator spyware.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his conservative government were now really feeling the heat, scrambling in vain to cover up a scandal that had already spiraled out of their control.

The political storm made its metaphorical landfall in August.

Greek spy chief Panagiotis Kontoleon admitted before a parliamentary committee that the National Intelligence Service had been spying on Koukakis, triggering a series of events that has shaken Greek politics and society to its very core.

Mitsotakis was left with no choice but to force Kontoleon to resign, as well as his own nephew and top aide Grigoris Dimitriadis.

The Greek premier, though, remained adamant in denying that he knew anything about the illegal surveillance.

EU’s reticent response

The surveillance scandal only reached the proportions it has because of the three main opposition parties – Syriza, PASOK-KINAL, and the Communist Party of Greece – and the European Parliament’s PEGA Committee, which is tasked with investigating violations of EU law through Pegasus and other spyware.

They ensured that the scandal became part of Greek and wider European public discourse, despite the EU and most of its members taking an ambiguous stance and almost turning a blind eye.

Mitsotakis, inadvertently or otherwise, managed to explain the bloc’s hesitance on the issue, saying in a speech on Tuesday that illegal surveillance is a serious problem in the entire EU, not just Greece.

The assertion carries weight as, to name a few, Hungary, Poland, the Greek Cypriot administration, Italy, and Austria have seen incidents where different spyware was used to target journalists, politicians, or businesspeople.

Similarly, in May 2021, Danish media reports revealed that Denmark’s intelligence agencies helped their US counterparts spy on European leaders, including top politicians from Germany, France, Norway, and Sweden.

Given the evident scale of the problem across Europe, the EU seems to be actively trying to avoid the issue.

With so many skeletons in so many closets, the bloc probably fears that digging deeper could lead to a serious crisis of legitimacy and even spark a wave of social unrest.

Another probable reason is the Türkiye-Greece equation.

Some EU states openly support Athens against Ankara, whom they view as a threat to their regional interests.

For these countries, the Greek surveillance scandal represents a clear danger to their ally in Athens, Mitsotakis, and they likely do not want to do anything to undermine him or his government.

Source: Anadolu Agency