Sunday

16th May 2021

'Gorilla' taints EU oversight of Greek bailout

  • Commission HQ: Brussels is trying to wash its hands of the affair (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

The resignation of a Slovak official installed by the EU to help oversee Greek state sell-offs has posed questions over its selection procedure.

The official, Anna Bubenikova, stepped down last Thursday (9 August) from her post as one of three EU advisors on the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (Hradf), a Greek-government-owned firm set up in July to auction up to €50 billion of assets - including the state lottery, real estate and shares in Greek banks - in line with EU bailout demands.

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Her decision came after a Slovak TV channel, Markiza TV, revealed on 2 August that she got the Hradf post despite being implicated in the so-called Gorilla scandal.

Gorilla is the codename of a Slovak secret service wiretap operation in 2005 and 2006.

Transcripts of the wiretaps were leaked on the Internet last December, alleging that Bubenikova, a former director of the National Property Fund (NPF), a Slovak privatisation agency, used her post to help one of her husband's companies.

Bubenikova lost her NPF job over the affair in January.

But the then government of former prime minister Iveta Radicova recommended her anyway for the Hradf post to the EU Council's working group on the eurozone, which gave her the Hradf job.

The Markiza TV report prompted the Slovak finance ministry on 6 August to publicly ask the Eurogroup, the Brussels-based club of euro-using countries, to reconsider her appointment on "ethical" grounds.

For her part, Bubenikova said in a press release that she resigned in order to protect Hradf from "untrue assertions ... made by some media and some Slovak politicians."

Meanwhile, the European Commission is trying to distance itself from the situation.

A commission official in its Bratislava delegation, Ingrid Ludvikova, said in a statement to Slovak press the whole thing is "the responsibility of the employer, which is [Hradf]. It is not for the European Commission to rule on this matter."

The commission's delegation in Athens said in a communique that Bubenikova was selected due to "her professional experience and expertise in the field of privatisation."

It added that "to the commission's knowledge, the Slovak authorities have not started any legal proceedings or any formal investigation" against her and that "it subscribes to the fundamental principle of 'innocent until proven guilty'."

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