Expelled Greek MEP asks EPP not to take position in his row with Athens

"You take sides in a dispute I have with the PM Mr. Mitsotakis without knowing exactly what is going on and without having the sensitivity of asking my view before unleashing a personal attack against me," Kyrtsos told Weber. [EPA-EFE/YANNIS KOLESIDIS]

Giorgos Kyrtsos, a centre-right EU lawmaker who was recently expelled from the ruling New Democracy party, has sent a letter to the European Parliament’s EPP group leader Manfred Weber asking him to stay neutral in his row with the government in Athens.

Kyrtsos recently criticised Greece’s ruling New Democracy party and particularly Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis for heading the country towards “Orbanisation”.

New Democracy is affiliated to the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), the largest political group in the European Parliament which is headed by Manfred Weber.

The MEP was also critical of the handling of the pandemic, the freedom of press and justice in the Mediterranean country. Earlier this week, Mitsotakis decided to expel Kyrtsos from his party’s ranks.

“We firmly reject the baseless accusations against the Greek government by Giorgos Kyrtsos. We find them unacceptable. Following these events, an internal procedure will be launched against MEP Kyrtsos,” said Weber, a close ally of the Greek PM.

Kyrtsos reacted, sending a letter to the EPP leader asking him not to take position on the case, saying he is not aware of the situation. He also described Mitsotakis as “illiberal”.

“You take sides in a dispute I have with the PM Mr. Mitsotakis without knowing exactly what is going on and without having the sensitivity of asking my view before unleashing a personal attack against me. My almost eight-year long presence in the EPP’s political group in the European Parliament should have made you more cautious and responsible,” reads the letter seen by EURACTIV.

Kyrtsos presented numerous arguments to support his criticism against the government ranging from the handling of the pandemic, the country’s economy and the deteriorating press freedom.

He again criticised the government for failing to demand compensations from Novartis multinational pharmaceutical company, after a scandal was revealed.

“Novartis has already paid huge fines – around 350 million dollars – to the competent USA authorities for its unfair marketing practices in Greece and other countries. The Greek people expect that the Swiss multinational will be forced, through judicial process, to return part of the money it overcharged the Greek social security system,” Kyrtsos said.

“In addition, the government created the political environment for the persecution of two investigative reporters and a senior judge who made research and evaluated documents concerning the possible involvement in the scandal of 10 politicians and personalities opposed to the SYRIZA government,” he added.

Leftist MEP: The EPP is collapsing everywhere

Stelios Kouloglou, an EU lawmaker from the leftist Syriza party, backed his right-wing colleague, saying Weber should first do his homework when it comes to Greek politics.

Speaking to EURACTIV Greece, he said: “Isn’t Weber aware that the Commission and Vice-President have expressed concerns about the manipulation of the media by the government?”.  Kouloglou was referring to an interview given by European Commission vice-president Věra Jourová, in which she described Greece as a “problematic country” when it comes to press freedom.

“It is extremely rare for a president to take a position in favour of a prime minister of another country and against a member of his own group,” Kouloglou added.

“I understand that with fewer and fewer prime ministers across the bloc, the EPP needs Mr. Mitsotakis. Much more when the atmosphere from Austria’s Kurtz to the Spanish People’s Party is not pleasant,” he concluded.

Letter to M. Weber

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]

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