Wednesday 13 July 2011

The New York Times and the Papandreou Family

The New York Times ran an article on the Papandreou family today (“Family Differences, Global Issues”), which relies heavily on the perspective of Nikos Papandreou, the brother of the current Prime Minister of Greece, George Papandreou.

It is interesting to note that the word “corruption” is not mentioned a single time in the article. This is arguable one of the greatest legacies of former Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou's rule, and one which George Papandreou, the son of Andreas and Greece's current prime minister, struggles with today.

There is no mention of the Bank of Crete scandal, in which $210 million were embezzled. Some of these millions were, according to the Bank’s Chief Executive, paid directly to Andreas Papandreou. Although the former Prime Minister was acquitted by a special tribunal, there are few people who do not believe he was involved, that senior PASOK figures did not benefit from this, or that the special tribunal properly investigated the affair.

There is no mention of the Siemens bribery scandal, which began during Andreas Papandreou’s term, and according to the report of the Hellenic Parliament (which was supported by PASOK) may have caused the Greek state up to EUR 2 billion in over-priced purchases. Significantly, there is no mention in the article that the Siemens bribery funds allegedly went to PASOK politicians as well as to PASOK as a political party.

There is no mention of the role of Nikos Papandreou, the protagonist in this article, and his rather mysterious role in the negotiations of the Skaramanga Shipyard from Thyssen Krupp to Abu Dhabi Mar in March 2010. Why was Mr. Papandreou involved in this deal when:

a.     He had, and has, no government position. 

b.   The Greek state had no shareholding in Skaramanga at the time. Why was it involved in the negotiating the deal with Abu Dhabi Mar? Was the price paid to--ostensibly--safeguard jobs at Skaramanga worth it? Was this the only motivation?

c.     Why did Prime Minister George Papandreou not only reverse Greek policy not to accept the first batch of four submarines (one of which was defective), but to order two more, at a time when it was clear Greece could not afford the first four, let alone the second second two?

There is no mention of the fact that Mr. Nikos Papandreou’s name has surfaced as well in the failed Astakos Investment, not least as someone doing somersaults:

Κληθείς να σχολιάσει την εμπλοκή του κ. Νίκου Παπανδρέου στην υπόθεση του Αστακού παραπέμπει σε παλαιότερη δήλωση του πρωθυπουργού, ο οποίος είχε πει ότι οι προσωπικές και συγγενικές σχέσεις δεν επηρεάζουν τη λήψη αποφάσεων. Ωστόσο, ο κ. Παμπούκης καλύπτει απόλυτα τον αδελφό του πρωθυπουργού, καθώς όπως λέει «ο κ. Νίκος Παπανδρέου έχει πει ότι θα έκανε και “κωλοτούμπες” για να φέρει επενδύσεις στην Ελλάδα. Και εγώ λέω ότι πολύ καλά θα έκανε, διότι η χώρα τις χρειάζεται περισσότερο από ποτέ».

I will leave the NYT to attempt to decipher this Greek text on their own—it may be instructive.

Somersaults or no, if I had done the interview, I would have asked at least these simple questions: How is it possible that the brother of the Prime Minister, who does not hold government office, and has no apparent qualifications in investment management, represent Greece at this level? Isn't there a conflict of interest? Doesn't the Prime Minister trust his own Ministers Pamboukis and Katselli who were involved in the negotiations? 

There is also no mention of Mr. Antrikos Papandreou, the other brother of Nikos and George, who is founder and head of the Institute for Climate and Energy Security. This organisation not only benefits from contracts from the Greek government, notably the organisation of the Mediterranean Climate Change Initiative, but is apparently lobbying for the creation of a EUR 200 million investment fund for green energy investments.

There is no mention of the fact that Prime Minister Papandreou’s PASOK party is highly indebted, that it has pre-absorbed its government funding until 2016, and that it has over EUR 40 million in bank loans. Together with its implication in known corruption scandals (the Siemens funds), one has to wonder exactly how much negotiating power Greece’s Prime Minister has when he attends these European meetings in Brussels and Berlin.

As Greece tries to clean up the mess inflicted by two generations of venal and corrupt politicians and their allies, this historical perspective would have been valuable, more so than the anodyne comments made by former Minister Louka Katseli. Andreas Papandreou's dark legacy continues to this day, and it is this legacy that his son, who was an active Minister in his father's governments, is called upon to change.  

© Philip Ammerman, 2011

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