Politics without morality is the morality of tyrants
Letter written by Journalist Kostas Vaxevanis to Evanggelos Venizelos March 15th 2012. The letter has been published on http://www.koutipandoras.gr/?p=17080 and titled “Politics without morality is the morality of tyrants”
I am writing to you for the third time. Many will wonder why? Some will say its perseverance. I will not deny that I was quite hesitant to write yet another letter to which you would not reply. My letter may seem tedious and pointless coming at a time which finds you in “political heaven”. But we all have our own understanding of what is or is not pointless.
In times of crisis people are more likely to be deceived than to be angry. I have stood by and watched in amazement as people called me after reading my first two letters to you, having something to add to the way you have been governing, describing your tactics as “legislative monstrosities», now making statements of support to you. They now appear almost anxious to undertake the difficult task of helping you rise to the throne as party leader of PASOK. Many would argue «this is politics,» but to me «this is not politics» and this is why I am writing again. Politics without morality is the morality of tyrants. This country deserves something more.
Let us start from the beginning when back in 2004 you were Minister of Culture. Your reign as minister was sealed by what seemed to be a great achievement: the Olympic Games. Today everyone understands that this was merely a way for some to make a huge profit by being awarded massive construction contracts given to them directly/namely without tendering or competition stages via the praises of the Greek media. The rubbish that our fellow citizens are nowadays digging through for something to eat, are leftovers from these times. Public records of exactly how many billions the Olympics cost were never released. We now understand how much they have cost us. I am referring not only to the economic costs, but also to the cost of the picture painted on the front pages of the European press of the «lazy Greek». Greeks are not lazy. There is no such thing as a lazy nation. The Greek governments, your government, handed out billions of euros for the Olympics, SIEMENS investments, buying “tilting” submarines, «modernization» projects with ridiculously high budgets. Some began accepting bribes and used this as an opportunity to climb up the political ladder within a “european establishment”. But this is another big subject for discussion.
Back to the point of this letter.
Before that in April 2003, again as Minister of Culture you signed decrees by which two listed industrial buildings, the FIX and ALLATINI factories, were declassified. Both were situated on valuable land in the area of Thessaloniki. The owners whom had already been compensated for the initial ratings of the buildings, were now to become even richer. The owners of the ALLATINI factory had been granted permission to transfer 110,000 buildable square meters to another location. The declassification of parts of the listed building that you granted, allowed the owner to build 5 six-storey building, 1 five-storey building, a single storey residence and 400 parking spaces.
Despite the reaction of the residents the whole political establishment of Thessaloniki, many of which have since been convicted or are facing prosecution for serious charges, stood on your side. Two years later, the Council of State ruled the declassification you supported illegal, according to Article 24 of the Constitution. This had escaped your attention even though you are a constitution expert. Even though the permitted building area factor for the area was 2,2, factor 4,2 was applied to the scheme, exceeding any notion of justified reason. Construction works thankfully never commenced. In 2006, George Voulgarakis, Minister of Culture, for New Democracy this time, yet again declassified the ALLATINI factory. The Council of State ruled the decree illegal again. There must be a reason why your government and later the government of New Democracy were both eager to gain access to a block in Thessaloniki that could become a goldmine overnight.
According to planning legislation which you passed and signed off “in the event that a plot of land exceeds 2,000sq.m in size and the proposed grounds around the building can be used for public use, the following incentives are given: permitted building area can be increased by 35% and additionally the building will be allowed to be 30% taller than any permitted height restriction in the area”.
Coincidentally, the ALLATINI plot of land is 2600 square meters. Previously the construction works had not commenced because the Council of State had ruled the decree illegal due to the scheme exceeding the permitted building area. You suddenly managed to regulate this by amending the law accordingly. The Greek Parliament almost unanimously (considering this has been a cross-party affair) voted for this law to be amended. I guess there are not many plots of land over 2,000 square meters available in city centres,. Why else would one bother to make such an amendment? If there are more such available plots of land, please do let us know so that we can see who else has profited from this law amendment.
Let us move on to more complex issues.
Just before the second Memorandum was voted you stated that you needed 250 million or else you would have to make auxilery pensions cuts. I can tell you where the 250 million you were looking for as well as where many millions more that you handed out as gifts, should have been found. And obviously I don’t mean from pensioners. You have also served as defense minister. At that time you knew too well both from officials but also from the judicial establishment what the whole of Greece also knew from the news. The supply of 4 German submarines S-214 and the repair of 4 more S-209 was a big bribing scandal involving PASOK ministers and officials of the Navy Ministry. Greece had once again decided to buy submarines in the name of national security for double the normal market rate. So not only did we finance the German research program HDW, but we also paid in advance for all submarines when we only received one which was faulty and appeared to be “tiliting”. The «PAPANIKOLIS» submarine as it was called, had been rejected by all other ministers of defense before you.
The German authorities investigated the scandal, and revealed that a group of Greeks (including politicians) took bribes in order for the commission to go ahead. The bribes were handed over to the perjurer through the offset program. The German company appeared to be paying Greek companies to take on construction works involving the submarine. That was the bribe cover-up. Next German HDW agreed to buy the Shipyards in Skaramanga for a ridiculously cheap price in order for the bribers to appear as if they were buying submarines to save the shipyards, and save the workers who would be left jobless otherwise.
In the meantime in Greece, further investigations took place leading to the prosecution of 30 people. Amongst the prosecuted were trade unionists who took bribes to “adjust” employee rights in the interest of those being bribed. The Greek Tax Crime Control unit (SDOE), as you well know, informed you personally confirming the above allegations. HDW did not honor the agreed Offset Program which would return 500 million to Greece. SDOEs report revealed that large companies which appeared to have received money from the German company to work on parts of the submarine never did. Where did that money go? The German judicial authorities concluded that the money was used for bribing.
You were also aware of the appalling fact the German company that now owns the shipyard was responsible for large tax violations, ironically the Germans now accuse us of corruption. In one of the invoices in question funds were shown to «promote the corporate interests of the Greek shipyard in Bolivia.» Minor detail being that Bolivia has no sea to have corporate interests in the shipyards.
Based on the criminal investigation carried out by Germany and Greece, our country should have challenged the submarine contracts, and demanded compensation. This never happened. You were happy to buy the “tilting” submarine when all other defense ministers before you declined to do so. You then did something even worse. Again using the pretext that the shipyard workers needed to be saved, part of the Shipyard was sold to investors from Dubai (30% of the shipyard remained in German hands). Next you signed a waiver agreement applying law 3885/2010. While the country was still amidst negotiations with the Germans, you signed a document in which the Greek government explicitly renounced any right to claim losses in the case of breach of contract for the submarine deal. The Shipyards were handed over to the new owners although you knew that unsolved tax offense accusations were pending, so were false invoices and more. You did not stop there. At a time of crisis you decided to buy two more submarines for the outrageous price of 515 million euros, even though you were aware that we had already paid a 96% deposit for the last submarines that we never received. The contract does not even include a clause setting out the payment conditions for you coughed up the cash to make the payment up front. So you should know where the money that you were supposedly looking for went. Now the question is why you gave the Germans more than 1 billion euros?
Since we touched the subject of employee “well-being», let me remind you of another case, whereas you similarly handed out vast amounts of money so that “workers would not lose their jobs”. In 1998 whilst you were Development Minister you announced that the Canadian company which exploited the Prinos-Kavala oil reserves was withdrawing its operations from Greece because the contract expired. Based on contractual obligations the company had to restore the environment to its original condition . The allowed budget for this was $ 700 million, according to your statement in Parliament. You decided not to dismiss the 258 employees by continuing the pumping operations not by the group Greek Petroleum SA. Nor did an international competition take place. Instead the contract was awarded directly to a newly formed company called KAVALA OIL, 67% privately owned and 33% owned by the workers. You personally gave a 5 million U.S. dollars deposit for the new company to form. You basically financed it. You became a local hero in Kavala.
The contract you signed also included something else unexplainable. The Company was exempt from the costs of environmental remediation and the demolition of the plant after the end of pumping. This gave them the right to takeout the oil and leave the Greek government with a bill of $ 700 million in 1999 . Neither the previous company paid nor will the next. The Greek people will pay the bill. The «lazy greeks» featured in German newspapers that eat up money. All this to apparently «save» 258 employees. With all that money you gave to the companies the workers would have lived without working and so would many more in the region. I expect an answer to why you obsessively believe that the interests of companies are the interests of Greece.
The abovementioned law ‘amendments’ passed via the Greek parliament. You are familiar with law as a subject and you know how to delegate responsibilities. I am not only referring to politics.
Perhaps this letter is written to all politicians. I do not think they are all corrupt. They may hopefully understand what is going on and dare to speak up. I am also writing this letter to all the people supporting PASOK that will have to spend 2 euros in order to vote for you to be party leader believing that your are the most appropriate candidate. I really do not understand why anyone would think that, but I’m sure they do not mean the «most appropriate» out of pure freedom of choice.
The important thing is not for the political parties to survive, but for the country. The country that you will enentually like us to think that you saved, like the Shipyards in Skaramanga and Kavala Oil. Even ALLATINI. Whether you like it or not, you have surrendered to history. The importance you stress on seeing the name «Venizelos» in power for the second time has been accomplished. Historians say that in order for Eleftherios Venizelos to reach the Asia Minor Catastrophe he at least had a vision. I do not think that any future historian will be able to forgive you for leading the country to total destruction in credit of any vision.
PS For all PASOK members who will vote for Venizelos to lead in order to save the party, ask yourself before you do so, whether you are talking about a party that only suits Venizelos.”
Translated by @ElianaVou