The centre-right government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis has been increasingly using “tyrannical” methods such as controlling the media to keep the opposition voices in check, Greece’s former foreign minister Nikos Kotzias told EURACTIV, warning also about the closed power system of oligarchs that blocks any progress in the country.
“The Mitsotakis government uses tyrannical methods as Aristotle described: it is not a dictatorship, but methods and precautionary measures taken by a majority, such as controlling the press or using the pandemic to take repressive measures, to prevent the minority from becoming a majority,” said the former diplomacy chief in the leftist cabinet of Alexis Tsipras.
Kotzias clarified, however, that the tactic of the ruling New Democracy (European People’s Party) cannot be compared to that of ultra-right Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in Hungary because “Orbán enjoys the support of two-thirds of the parliament and the majority of the people”, while the current Greek government is nowhere near that.
“They got a majority in the parliament thanks to the electoral law,” he said, referring to the law that adds another 50 seats to the party that comes first in the vote.
The freedom of the press in Greece has been an issue for a long time.
In the 2020 World Press Freedom Index, Greece ranked 65th out of 180 countries, relegated to the yellow zone together with all Balkan countries and Eastern Europe.
The issue has also caught the attention of Brussels, with EU Commissioner for Values and Transparency Věra Jourová saying in December that “some EU governments” are channelling national money only to those media that are the “willing servants of state propaganda”. She specified such cases were seen in Poland, Hungary, and Greece.
Kotzias said the current government passes 10-30 pieces of legislation monthly, mostly aimed at creating an unfavourable framework for the social forces opposing their policies.
Referring to the 2010-2015 period, when several social movements emerged on the back of fighting austerity-driven policies, he said the government wants to “pre-empt” such a situation but was unlikely to succeed.
“I’m afraid we will get there, but with spontaneous movements that will be out of control, that will have no plan, no vision, they will just express anger,” Kotzias warned and suggested the creation of a front of progressive powers.
Social decline and the need for a progressive front
Kotzias, the architect of the 2018 North-Macedonia name change deal, resigned as foreign minister in October 2018, following a clash with the then coalition partner, centre-right Independent Greeks. He then returned to “Pratto”, a centre-left progressive movement.
The diplomat recently sent 10 letters, entitled “Salvation and Renaissance Front”, to leaders of progressive political forces in Greece to launch an exploratory dialogue.
Kotzias said Greece has been on a downward trajectory in all fields, from economy and demography to industrial, farming production and even the morale of the society. It therefore needs a “salvation” plan and a strategy for “renaissance”, in order to progress and “find itself at the forefront of the fourth industrial revolution like Estonia did”.
Closed systems and oligarchs
Greece’s main problem, he said, is a closed system that has prevailed for decades, “from the oligarchy at the top to some political parties which do not allow anyone else to enter, are not renewed with new people and therefore do not create a productive atmosphere”.
“These systems, especially the oligarchic one, have only added two people in the last 30 years to this small group of ten families, four banks and their supporters, this whole system needs to open. I am not talking about socialist revolutions but about opening this system’s doors to young people, new talents,” he added.
To illustrate the situation in the country, Kotzias cited the example of a tech company located near Corinth, next to the Athens region.
“There is an amazing company that manufactures automatic electronic clocks to measure electricity. It has a turnover of €600 million a year. The only country that does not buy from this company is Greece because they do not control the company. It cooperates with the Swiss and they [the government] want to sink it. We cannot grow like this,” he said.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]