When confidence lays in tatters


You wouldn’t term it easily “social unrest”. Nothing comparable to the days and weeks of anger and revolt in Athens and all around Greece in 2010-11, when the hard landing of the economy under the first EU/IMF Adjustment Programme rocked the political system – and, most importantly, the man in (literally) the street.

Still, the feeling of political-cum-judicial cover-up following the train accident at Tempe with 57 casualties under horrible conditions, resulted in massive street demonstrations; at the same time a petition was signed by more than 1.3 million citizens for the privileged legal status of politician to be lifted. Such legal status precludes any effective control of politicians’ behavior – even when criminal suspicion lurks.

A further case of justice being denied is also proving a thorn to public opinion – a thorn bordering on provocation: a case of a 12-year-old girl being subjected to rape and ending in prostitution is belatedly tried and the public prosecutor asked for quite lenient penalties for one offender with allegedly political ties. Local protests were organized, evolving to a wider wave of  discontent.

Confidence to public institutions, be they political but also more disturbingly judicial, is waning…

Meanwhile, Greek authorities brushed nonchalantly aside the (Greek Member of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office) P. Papandreou call of for Greece “to take action” in the matter of “criminal offences consisting in breach of duty” committed by former Ministers of Transport in the Tempe case. Now, EPPO head Laura Codruja Kovesi reverts to the issue with interviews to major Greek newspapers with a strongly-worded call for Greece to amend its ways: “They block us from bringing the truth. They block us from applying justice. If one is not allowed to investigate, one cannot find the truth”. The EPPO forwarded the matter to the European Commission – the same European Commission to which a Resolution of the European Parliament indicated that the rule of law is  subverted in Greece.

Both the European Parliament Resolution and the EPPO comments did not sit well with the Greek legal system. The Supreme Court, convened in administrative mode, rebuffed the EP comments on the status of rule of law in Greece; More recently, the President of the Administrative Judges Union accused the European Public Prosecutor of interfering with the Greek Constitution (under which any prosecution of ministers has to go through a vote in Parliament – which actually precludes any criminal investigation against member of the Government majority).

Beign accused of rule of law infringements is not compatible with a Government – indeed, with a political system – that attacked Hungary’s Victor Orban and (earlier on) Poland’s Kaczyngki regimes for being less than-respectful of rule of law matters.

But at the end of the day, the pronouncements about the rule of law in Greece emanating from “Europe” are of far less importance than the way Greek citizens experience the situation in their own country.

Let’s turn to David Hume (in Frist Principles of Government, 1777): “Nothing appears more surprising than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few, and the implicit submission with which they resign their own sentiments and passions to those of their rulers”.