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14th Apr 2024

Greek government in no-confidence vote over spying scandal

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In his office in Brussels, Greek Left MEP Stelios Kouloglou watches online as opposition leader Alexis Tsipras in Athens reads off a list of names that had been under surveillance by the Greek secret services.

"It is a major development," Kouloglou tells EUobserver on Wednesday (25 January).

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Moments later, Tsipras calls for a no-confidence vote on a government and its leadership under conservative prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

The vote is set for Friday, in a move welcomed by Mitsotakis ahead of possible early elections later this year.

"It is a good opportunity to compare what we have done during our four-year terms," insisted Mitsotakis.

Tsipras has accused Mitsotakis of being a "mastermind and chief behind this criminal network", following revelations of state led surveillance against five top military officials and an energy minister.

For Kouloglou, those named do not come as a surprise, noting they had been already leaked.

"We know the names. We knew them, but now it is official," said Kouloglou, who sits in as a substitute on the European Parliament's Pega (short for Pegasus, the Israeli mobile phone spyware) surveillance inquiry committee.

When Mitsotakis became prime minister, he moved the Greek state intelligence service EYP under his watch and remit.

The scandal erupted last July when it was revealed attempts had been made to infect the phone of Pasok opposition leader Nikos Androulakis with Predator, a spyware capable of making recordings.

Mitsotakis then admitted the EYP had monitored Androulakis but denied authorities ever used Predator. Greek authorities had also admitted snooping on Thanasis Koukakis, a Greek journalist.

EYP chief Panagiotis Kontoleon resigned over the affair, posing questions on why journalists and political oppositions figures are being spied upon by the Greek state.

"The minute I say that I'm going to stand for the socialist party, I suddenly realised that I'm a victim of phone hacking or wiretapping," said Androulakis last year.

Mitsotakis' secretary general, Grigoris Dimitriadis, also stepped down and then sued critical media outlets Reporters United and Efimerida ton Syntakton (EfSyn).

Aside from being the prime minister's nephew, Dimitriadis was also responsible for government contacts with the EYP.

The latest developments in Athens has only intensified calls for Mitsotakis' resignation.

Tsipras had received the list of names from the Hellenic Authority for Communication Security and Privacy (ADAE), an independent oversight authority.

And it was on the back of an ADAE investigation into the snooping of Pasok leader Androulakis that led to the resignation of EYP chief Panagiotis Kontoleon and Mitsotakis' nephew.

Meanwhile, a Greek judicial investigation and a parliamentary inquiry into the affair have yet to produce any meaningful results.

The latest issue has not gone unnoticed in Brussels.

The Pega committee now wants ADAE chair Christos Rammos to speak at a hearing. For its part, the Greek government has denied any wrongdoing.

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