Consequences of the Papaconstantinou affair

By Angelos Stangos

There are many who are still in shock over the revelation that former Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou may have tampered with a list bearing the names of Greek depositors at a Swiss branch of HSBC. These are mostly citizens who believed in and defended Greece’s place in Europe throughout the course of the crisis. It is people who resisted being swept up in the wave of populism because they knew that it is of paramount significance that Greece remains in the common currency area.

Beyond the economic advantages – and these are very important – it is only by remaining in the eurozone that Greece can hope to bring about the necessary structural reforms and survive until Europe’s unification is complete.

These people cannot believe that a finance minister would ever contemplate doing what Papaconstantinou is being accused of. In his defense, Greece’s former finance chief claims that he has been set up and that he had no part in erasing the names of his relatives from the list. And of course, he remains innocent until proven guilty, even though the evidence weighs heavily against him. The first reason why things are not looking good for Papaconstantinou is that he testified before Parliament that he had lost the original copy of the list. Secondly, he did not submit the names of the relatives concerned to a probe into the provenance of his and his family’s wealth. And thirdly, he did not react when the list was published without the contentious names after being leaked to a journalist.

Objectively, the Papaconstantinou isssue should not be associated with Greece’s efforts to meet creditor demands for austerity and reforms. However, the fact is that this affair has dealt a very heavy blow to the political system and particularly to its pro-European forces. The parties of the tripartite coalition, and especially PASOK, are presenting the case as being about one individual’s decisions and actions and are hoping that if it is seen as such, the damage can be contained. Whether this will be the case remains to be seen, but in the meantime, the opposition is using the case to harm the coalition as much as possible.

The damage done by the Papaconstantinou affair is not just restricted to Greece, but has international repercussions at a time when Greece is striving to restore its good name.

As far as Papaconstantinou himself is concerned, its appears very much as though his career is over. It is not just the baseness of the act that he has been accused of that blackens his name, but also the fact that he opened himself up to attack from the political system, which swept down on him and then tried to use him as a scapegoat to hide behind. Of course, he may still be able to present irrefutable evidence that he is the victim of a plot, and if that happens then all hell will break loose.