Siemens probe divides parties

The submission on Monday of reports into the Siemens cash-for-contracts scandal following an investigation by a parliamentary committee set the tone for a fractious debate in the House on a range of issues, including foreign policy, which Prime Minister George Papandreou tried to rise above by calling for some national unity.

The delivery of five different reports by the MPs representing the five parliamentary parties did not lead to any major surprises. PASOK recommended that 12 former ministers – five from its own party and seven from New Democracy – should be probed further in connection to claims that they were involved in secret deals with the Greek branch of Siemens.

ND recommends that eight PASOK members, including former Prime Minister Costas Simitis, should be investigated. The German electronics giant allegedly paid millions of euros in bribes to political parties, politicians and civil servants to secure state contracts. The conservatives concluded that none of their own former ministers were in any way connected to illegal actions.

The right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) labeled the parliamentary committee a failure and blasted PASOK and New Democracy for not allowing lawmakers to examine the two parties? accounts. The nationalists said that if the two parties do not commit to being transparent, LAOS might boycott and preliminary judicial investigation.

The Communist Party (KKE) and the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) said Parliament should investigate the corruption claims further.

The submission of the reports was followed by a debate on foreign policy, but ND leader Antonis Samaras seized the opportunity to suggest that there be cross-party agreement on examining the source of wealth declarations (?pothen esches?) that had be made by anyone who served as a minister, dating back to 1974. He also attacked Papandreou, accusing him of conceding ground to Turkey in negotiations over the Aegean. The premier denounced his rival for being unnecessarily divisive. ?Our country has enough problems and we do not need to make up new ones,? he said. ?We do not need fabricated divisions over who is or is not a patriot.?

?Foreign policy should unite Greeks,? added Papandreou. ?The crisis means we have to think differently. We have to stand together to build a new Greece.?