Greece’s ruling centre-right New Democracy party (European People’s Party) has expelled EU lawmaker Giorgios Kyrtsos from its ranks because of his criticism against the government over media freedom and the handling of the pandemic.
It was not immediately clear if Kyrtsos would remain an independent MEP or join another political party in the European Parliament.
“He discredits the country globally by questioning the independence of the Greek judiciary and comparing Greece with states that violate the rule of law. With his attitude he insults all those who trusted him to represent them,” New Democracy said in a statement.
The party added that for a long time Kyrtsos has been posting on social media comments “hostile” toward the party and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
The announcement added that the ruling party has so far been tolerating such posts but comparing Greece with Poland and Hungary could not be accepted.
Kyrtsos had recently said Greece was heading toward “Orbanisation”, a reference to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s tight control of his country.
The EU lawmaker’s comment came in response to Mitsotakis’ speech in the Greek parliament, where he described two journalists who had unveiled a scandal involving Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis as a “gang”.
The scandal saw ten high-ranking politicians from opposition parties indicted over allegedly receiving bribes from Novartis. The politicians denied any wrongdoing and said the accusation was politically motivated.
Last month, Kostas Vaxevanis and Ioanna Papadakou, who revealed the Novartis scandal several years before, were accused of involvement in the case and summoned to appear before a Supreme Court special court investigator.
The journalists’ prosecution has triggered the reaction of several EU and global journalist associations.
Vaxevanis faces four charges, including participation in a criminal organisation, breach of duty, and two counts of conspiracy to abuse power.
In an interview with EURACTIV Czech Republic in late 2021, European Commission Vice-President Věra Jourová admitted for the first time that Greece is considered a “problematic country” when it comes to media issues.
The discussion over press freedom in Greece has been a well-known secret in Brussels for quite some time as the country ranked even worse than Poland in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index, where it fell five places from the previous year.
Criticism over pandemic’s handling
Kyrstos has also strongly criticised the government for its handling of the pandemic, as the Mediterranean country is still reporting a high number of deaths daily.
According to a EURACTIV survey, Greece and Bulgaria topped the EU’s COVID-related death list in January.
Both countries reported more than 2,300 deaths each due to COVID, while the rest of Europe saw mortality rates fall.
Germany, with a population ten times Greece and Bulgaria, registered just 2,256 COVID-related deaths in January.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]