- In July, the Supreme Court’s Judicial Council unanimously decided to refer Dimitris Papangelopoulos, the former minister of justice of the SYRIZA-ANEL coalition government, to a special court for abuse of power and breach of duty. The Special Court convened in September to try Papangelopoulos for the charges, which are related to two interventions he made in the judiciary.
- The media reported that National Intelligence Service (EYP) officials were surveilling the phones of politicians, journalists, and military and police officials. Among those targeted was an opposition leader. The chief of EYP and the secretary general to the prime minister resigned over the scandal.
|Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections?||4.004 4.004|
The largely ceremonial president is elected by a parliamentary supermajority for a five-year term. The prime minister is chosen by the president and is usually the leader of the largest party in the parliament. Kyriakos Mitsotakis, head of the center-right party New Democracy (ND), took office as prime minister after the 2019 elections, replacing incumbent Alexis Tsipras of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA). Katerina Sakellaropoulou, a longtime judicial official who had been nominated by ND but was also supported by SYRIZA and the center-left Movement for Change (PASOK–KINALI), was elected president in 2020.
|Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections?||4.004 4.004|
The 300 members of the unicameral Hellenic Parliament are elected to serve four-year terms through a mixture of 8 single-member constituencies, 48 multimember constituencies, and a national constituency with 12 seats. Under the electoral law in effect for the 2019 elections, the party with the most votes received a 50-seat bonus, making it easier to form a governing majority.
In the 2019 elections, ND won a single-party majority of 158 seats. SYRIZA lost its leading position, falling to 86 seats, while KINAL won 22. Among smaller parties, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) took 15, the right-wing Greek Solution took 10, and the left-wing European Realistic Disobedience Front (MeRA25) secured 9. The far-right Golden Dawn party failed to win representation.
|Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies?||4.004 4.004|
The country generally has fair electoral laws and equal campaigning opportunities. A compulsory-voting system is not strongly enforced. If passed with a two-thirds supermajority, changes to electoral law are implemented for the following elections. If passed with a simple majority, they go into effect after the following elections. An electoral law passed by the SYRIZA-led government with a simple majority in 2016 abolished the 50-seat bonus awarded to the winning party and was set to take effect after the 2019 elections. In January 2020, the ND government secured passage of legislation that would restore a bonus system, awarding between 20 and 50 bonus seats to the leading party depending on its share of the national vote. The new law also passed with a simple majority, meaning it would take effect only after the next elections.
In 2019, the ND government passed a law expanding the voting rights of diaspora and overseas Greek citizens. Citizens living abroad can participate in elections by proving residency in Greece for a two-year period within the last 35 years.
|Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings?||4.004 4.004|
The political system features vigorous competition among a variety of parties. Six parties were represented in Parliament as of 2021, and many others competed in the 2019 elections but did not pass the 3 percent threshold for representation.
|Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections?||4.004 4.004|
Greece has established a strong pattern of democratic transfers of power between rival parties, with the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) and ND alternating in government for most of the past four decades. In 2012, the Democratic Left (DIMAR) split off from the Synaspismós party and joined a coalition government with PASOK and ND. In 2015, the radical left party SYRIZA, which saw its power increase during the financial crisis, won the parliamentary election. Together with the far-right party Independent Greeks (ANEL), a splinter party of ND, SYRIZA created a coalition that regained power and formed a government in September 2015.
|Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means?||4.004 4.004|
No group or institution from outside the political system exerts undue influence over the choices of voters and candidates.
|Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities?||3.003 4.004|
Greece’s largest recognized minority population, the Muslim community of Thrace, has full political rights, and three members of the community won seats in the 2019 parliamentary elections. The authorities have rejected some ethnic groups’ attempts to secure official recognition or to register associations with names referring to their ethnic identity, affecting their ability to organize and advocate for their political interests, though such associations are generally able to operate without legal recognition. Since 2010, documented immigrants have been allowed to vote in municipal elections.
Though there are no significant legal or practical barriers to women’s political participation, women only hold a little more than a fifth of the seats in parliament and sexist and patriarchal attitudes dissuade their active participation. In January 2020, Katerina Sakellaropoulou became the first woman to be elected as president of Greece.
|Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government?||4.004 4.004|
Greek elected officials generally set and implement government policies without undue interference, and the influence of international creditor institutions has receded over the past decade.
|Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective?||2.002 4.004|
Corruption remains a problem in Greece, and institutions tasked with combating it have inadequate resources. Tax officials in past years have been implicated in tax evasion schemes, which seriously complicate the government’s fiscal reform efforts. A new criminal code and a new code of criminal procedure, adopted in 2019, allow prison time for the bribery of politicians and are more broadly aligned with relevant international conventions. However, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) expressed serious concerns that the main active bribery offense was converted from a felony to a misdemeanor.
In March 2021, a special committee was created to investigate accusations that former digital governance minister Nikos Pappas had received bribes and rigged a television licensing competition. That July, Parliament voted in favor of prosecuting Pappas through a special court in collaboration with the Judicial Council and the prosecutorial authority. After no clear evidence of bribery emerged in the pre-investigative committee, Pappas was only referred to the Supreme Court for breach of duty. In June 2022, the Supreme Court’s Judicial Council referred Pappas to a special court for his handling of the television-license tender. The Special Court, which will examine the charges of dereliction of duty, is comprised of judges from the Supreme Court and the Council of State.
In mid-June 2022, former minister of justice of the SYRIZA-ANEL coalition government, Dimitris Papangelopoulos, was referred to the Supreme Court for a series of interventions he made in the judiciary while he was in office, but was only examined by the Supreme Court for two of them. In July 2022, the Supreme Court’s Judicial Council unanimously decided to refer him to the Special Court for abuse of power and subsequent breach of duty. It is the fourth time since Greece’s transition to democracy in 1974 that this Special Court has been activated. Papangelopoulos’s trial started in September 2022.
The same special court also examined the former head of the corruption prosecutor’s office, Eleni Touloupaki, for abuse of power related to her failure to send a report to Parliament for further investigation. The report was filed by PASOK members of parliament against the SYRIZA-ANEL government’s health minister and his deputy, and pertained to the Novartis case, in which 10 politicians were accused of receiving donations from the pharmaceutical company Novartis.
Score Change: The score declined from 3 to 2 because anticorruption laws have not been enforced and authorities have failed to fully prosecute several corrupt officials.
|Does the government operate with openness and transparency?||2.002 4.004|
Several laws and government programs are designed to ensure the transparency of official decisions and provide public access to information. Officials are required to make public declarations of their assets and income. Nonetheless, implementation of these transparency regulations is problematic.
The transparency of state procurement contracts remains a concern. Extraordinary conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic paved the way for direct procurement of public works without a call for tenders. Despite these conditions no longer existing, procurement practices have not gone back to normal.
Gaps in transparency also exist with respect to public debtors. Though the state is obliged to publicize the names of debtors who owe the public sector over €150,000 ($163,000), the archive of tax and social security debtors has not been updated since 2019. In July 2022, its publication was postponed for another year.
Issues with surveillance also undermine transparency. In 2022, investigative news outlets reported that the National Intelligence Service (EYP) had wiretapped the mobile phones of journalists Stavros Malihoudis, Anastasios Telloglou, and Thanasis Koukakis, and that Koukakis’s phone had also been infected by Predator spyware. In July, the National Transparency Authority (EAD)—created to tackle abuses of power—claimed it found no incriminating evidence against the government in its investigation. In August, EYP’s director admitted to a closed session of the parliamentary Committee on Institutions and Transparency that the intelligence agency had carried out surveillance of Koukakis as a matter of national security.
Also in August, the Hellenic Authority for Communication Security and Privacy (ADAE) revealed that the mobile phone of Nikos Androulakis, leader of Greece’s third largest political party and a member of the European Parliament, was wiretapped in 2021. While the government claimed that spying on Androulakis’s phone was wrong but legal, the chief of EYP and the general secretary to the prime minister subsequently resigned. Despite pressure from opposition politicians and journalists to reveal the rationale for spying on Androulakis, the government did not offer a justification and argued that it was a matter of national security. In September, a parliamentary inquiry was opened, but only examined a small number of witnesses, despite the disagreement of opposition parties.
In November, a newspaper published the names of over 30 politicians, journalists, entrepreneurs, chief defense and police officials, along with their partners, who were targeted by surveillance.
Though the government introduced the Act of Legislative Content in August, it did not repeal a 2021 provision that prevents ADAE from retroactively informing targets about surveillance measures taken against them for reasons of National Security. In December 2022, parliament began considering a draft surveillance law that academics and human rights organizations argued lacks effective privacy and human rights safeguards.
Score Change: The score declined from 3 to 2 because authorities obscured information about improper government surveillance against politicians and journalists, destroyed material evidence, and blocked witnesses from testifying in a parliamentary inquiry.
|Are there free and independent media?||3.003 4.004|
The constitution includes provisions guaranteeing freedom of the press, and these are generally upheld in practice, though the law imposes some limits related to defamation, hate speech, and other such content. While citizens continue to enjoy access to a broad array of print, broadcast, and online news outlets, ownership concentration and editorial interference from owners remain concerns, and the government has been accused of directing public funds toward friendly private media.
Journalists have been subject to assaults or other mistreatment, particularly while attempting to cover issues related to corruption and immigration. In 2022, reporter Thanasis Koukakis’s mobile phone was wiretapped and journalist Nektaria Stamouli’s reporting on surveillance and wiretapping incidents led to attempts to discredit her by a government spokesperson. The general secretary to the prime minister, Grigoris Dimitriadis, filed defamation lawsuits against investigative media and journalists following his resignation in August, asking them to retract all publications associating him with the wiretapping scandal and seeking more than half a million euros in compensation from defendants.
Despite these incidents, the media environment remains highly free and plural, as demonstrated by robust investigative journalism that has shed light on surveillance and wiretapping incidents, including by Inside Story and Reporters United.
|Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private?||3.003 4.004|
The constitution guarantees freedom of religion, and this is generally respected in practice. However, the Orthodox Church of Greece—which has a special constitutional status as the “prevailing religion” of the country—receives government subsidies, and its clergy’s salaries and pensions are paid for by the state. The constitution prohibits proselytizing, but this restriction is rarely enforced. Members of some minority religions face discrimination and legal barriers, such as permit requirements to open houses of worship.
|Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination?||4.004 4.004|
There are no significant constraints on academic freedom in Greece, and the educational system is free of political indoctrination. A law passed in February 2021 introduced police forces to some university campuses in an effort to fight crime, a longstanding problem in some institutions. Delays in the implementation of the policy echo the government’s ambivalence in light of opposition, protest, and violence.
|Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution?||4.004 4.004|
The government does not engage in improper monitoring of personal expression. Individuals are generally free to discuss their views in practice.
|Is there freedom of assembly?||4.004 4.004|
Freedom of assembly is guaranteed by the constitution, and the government generally protects this right. While the government passed a bill regulating public assemblies following the COVID-19 pandemic, protests continue to take place normally following the ease of pandemic-related restrictions.
Score Change: The score improved from 3 to 4 because the COVID-19-related assembly restrictions were lifted, increasing the opportunities for public assemblies.
|Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work?||4.004 4.004|
Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) generally operate without interference from the authorities. However, during 2020 the government made a series of changes to the registration requirements for organizations working on asylum and migration issues, generally increasing the regulatory burden on NGOs.
|Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations?||4.004 4.004|
Most workers have the right to form and join unions, bargain collectively, and strike. The law provides protections against discrimination toward union members, and the government generally upholds union rights.
|Is there an independent judiciary?||3.003 4.004|
The judiciary is largely independent, though its autonomy is undermined somewhat by corruption. Judges are appointed by the president on the advice of the Supreme Judicial Council, which is mostly composed of other judges. They serve until retirement age and cannot be removed arbitrarily.
|Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters?||3.003 4.004|
The law provides safeguards against arbitrary arrest and detention, ensures access to defense counsel, and provides for fair trial conditions. Persistent problems include court backlogs that lead to prolonged pretrial detention as well as improper detention of asylum seekers.
In September 2022, the Criminal Court of Appeal acquitted 20 defendants who were accused of money laundering during the signing of a contract with Siemens to digitize the Organization for Telecommunications (OTE). The Criminal Court of Appeal’s verdict overturned a lower court decision from 2019, which had given multiyear sentences to all defendants. The majority of the defendants were being prosecuted for activities committed before 2002, and charges were dropped due to the expiration of the statute of limitations. The prosecutor of the Supreme Court ordered a preliminary investigation into individuals who participated in the procedural handling of the case.
|Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies?||3.003 4.004|
While overall rates of violent crime are low, there are occasional acts of politically motivated violence and vandalism by left- or right-wing extremist groups. Some prisons and detention centers suffer from substandard conditions, and law enforcement personnel have been accused of physical abuse, particularly against vulnerable groups such as migrants and asylum seekers.
|Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population?||2.002 4.004|
Women generally enjoy equality before the law, though they continue to face workplace discrimination in practice.
Violence targeting immigrants, refugees, and LGBT+ people remains a problem. Romani individuals are also subject to discrimination and excessive policing despite legal protections.
Greek authorities have been accused of forcibly returning migrants and asylum seekers who attempt to enter irregularly from Turkey by land and sea, and multiple cases of such pushbacks were documented in 2022. The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) found that the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (FRONTEX) routinely covered up illegal pushbacks of migrants and asylum seekers by the Greek coastguard. The Greek government has denied these allegations.
|Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education?||4.004 4.004|
Freedom of movement is generally unrestricted for most residents. Most restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19 were lifted in 2022. Some rules about wearing masks indoors, such as on public transport, remained in place at the end of the year, and any visitor who tested positive for COVID-19 while in the country faced a five-day mandatory quarantine.
|Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors?||3.003 4.004|
The government and legal framework are generally supportive of property rights and entrepreneurship, but bureaucratic obstacles can inhibit business activity. Those who have political connections or are willing to pay bribes can sometimes expedite official procedures. To pressure tax-evading property owners who misrepresent the value of their assets, the Independent Authority for Public Revenue announced significant fines for this offense in 2019.
|Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance?||4.004 4.004|
There are no major constraints on personal social freedoms, though domestic violence remains an important problem. From the beginning of 2022 to September, 17 women were murdered by current or former male partners.
The government and civil society have taken initiatives to acknowledge and raise awareness of violence against women. The prime minister introduced the term femicide into public debate, and as of 2022, 44 counseling centers had assisted 44,200 women with problems at home. Also as of 2022, 12 domestic violence departments had been established in police stations, each with 15 police officers trained to deal with complaints of domestic violence, and more than 1,200 police officers took part in special seminars on femicides. In the first seven months of 2022, over 5,000 domestic violence cases were brought to court.
|Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation?||3.003 4.004|
Most residents enjoy legal protections against exploitative working conditions, but labor laws are not always adequately enforced. Migrants and asylum seekers are especially vulnerable to trafficking for forced labor or sexual exploitation, and government efforts to combat the problem, while increasing, remain insufficient, according to the US State Department.
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