NEWS

Headache for gov't as row between ex-ministers reignites

STAVROS PAPANTONIOU, GIORGOS BOURDARAS

TAGS: Politics

In a new headache for the leftist government, an ongoing clash between former defense minister Panos Kammenos and former foreign minister Nikos Kotzias was reignited over claims by the former that a contract for issuing visas was fixed under Kotzias' watch. 

Kammenos read out in Parliament what he said were extracts of emails exchanged between Foreign Ministry officials and representatives of a private firm which, he claimed, was improperly awarded a contract for issuing visas. 

According to Kammenos, the president of the company which eventually won the tender had been involved in setting the terms of the competition.

The former defense minister, who quit the government in January following differences with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras over the contentious Prespes agreement between Athens and Skopje, had always had a tense relationship with Kotzias, who left the government last year following a clash with Kammenos over the Prespes deal.

Kammenos claimed that Foreign Ministry officials who had been involved in allegedly fixing the competition subsequently secured favorable transfers abroad. “Now we have irrefutable evidence,” Kammenos declared during a tense appearance in Parliament.

Current Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos, who was in the House during Kammenos’s speech, struck a cautious tone opposite his former cabinet colleague, saying it would be “irresponsible” of him to comment before he has examined the documents.

“The picture I have now... is that there is no evidence pointing to illegality,” Katrougalos said. But he added that “the new evidence will be examined as it should be.”

Kotzias, for his part, took issue with his successor for “giving the nation’s biggest slanderer the opportunity to continue to undermine in the temple of democracy.”

He added that the material submitted by Kammenos was “probably the product of illegal wiretapping” and called on Parliament Speaker Nikos Voutsis to subject Kammenos to a disciplinary probe.

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