A European Parliament Committee that visited Greece this week warned that the rule of law in the country is facing very serious threats.
The European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties (LIBE) said that this worrying development is due to poor media reporting, threats against journalists, and severe shortcomings in the justice sector.
The visit covered a wide range of topics, including media freedom and safety of journalists, migration policies, human rights and equal treatment, the use of spyware, the rule of law, and the fight against corruption.
The Committee deplored the fact that the Prime Minister, government ministers, police representatives, the Supreme Court Prosecutor and other officials were not available or refused to meet MEPs.
The Chair of the delegation Sophie In ‘T Veld said that “Although Greece has a solid institutional and legal framework, vibrant civil society and independent media, the delegation notes that there are very serious threats to the rule of law and fundamental rights.”
Rule of law in Greece “under heavy pressure”
“Checks and balances, essential for a robust democracy, are under heavy pressure. Scrutiny by dedicated bodies and by free press is hollowed out, and justice is extremely slow and ineffective, leading to a culture of impunity. Corruption is eroding public services and goods. Civil society organizations are under enormous pressure,” the Chair of the Committee said.
She also spoke of the murder of journalist Giorgos Karaivaz, saying “there is no visible progress in the police investigation. Not only is no justice done to his family, but it sends a message that safety of journalists is no priority for the government.”
In addition, she stressed, many journalists face physical threats, verbal attacks, including from high-ranking politicians and ministers, and violation of their privacy with spyware.
Sophie In ‘T Veld added that media ownership by a “small number of oligarchs” negatively impacts media pluralism, resulting in dramatic under-reporting on certain topics. In the aftermath of the train accident, a common statement by Greek journalist associations also highlighted this problem.
The Chair of LIBE also blasted Greece on its treatment of migrants and refugees.
“The treatment of migrants at the external borders and domestically, including reports about systematic pushbacks, violence, arbitrary detention and theft of their belongings, is highly unsettling. The restrictions imposed on NGOs and journalists reporting on migration should be lifted immediately,” she said.