Transparency is country’s sovereign right (I)

The government’s non-negotiable intent to put an end to the unacceptable phenomena of entangled interests and corruption that have had considerable repercussions on Greek economic and political life was confirmed in a letter signed by the ministers for the Interior, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, Foreign Affairs Petros Molyviatis and of State Theodoros Roussopoulos, in reply to the Commissioner in charge of the Internal Market and Services Charlie McCreevy. The ministers emphasize in no uncertain terms that issues concerning objectivity in the media, polyphony and transparency in the management of public money, are related to the sovereign rights of each member state and as such cannot be said to infringe European law. At the same time, the three ministers raise serious questions regarding the procedure followed by the European Commission – particularly regarding the urgent nature of the commmission’s initiatives – emphasizing that in fuure this could have adminstrative and legal consequences. In particular, with regard to the urgent procedures invoked by the Commission, they note that law 3310/2005 is not yet in force. Due to the transitionary period, it will go into force as of June 14. Below is the full text of the Greek government’s 20-page letter to McCreevy. HELLENIC REPUBLIC Athens, 6 April 2005 To The EUROPEAN COMMISSION Att. Commissioner Mr. Charlie McCreevy Mr. Commissioner, We have the honor of replying, within the 15-day deadline set by the Commission, to your Letter dated 23.3.2005 – 2004/ 5083/(2005)738, which raised certain issues regarding the compatibility of the Greek legislation, concerning media and the activity of companies concluding public contracts, with EC law, both primary and secondary. Before, however, proceeding to the answer on the substance, we wish to note the following, particularly in view of the future progress of the whole case and the various administrative and legal procedural effects that may arise: Firstly, we have never been informed, either in the letters that we have so far received from the Commission – including the one to which we are now replying – or in the private discussions that took place at the Commission, of the complaints of the companies, from Greece and abroad, to which you are referring and their precise content, when in fact it is well known that such full and timely notification has a significant impact on the unimpeded exercise of the right to defend the legislation and thereby our country’s public interest in this particular case. Secondly, and consequently, we are still not aware of which were the reasons of prevailing Community interest established by the Commission or arising from the aforementioned complaints, that justified and can still justify the very tight deadline of fifteen days, which was set by the Commission. Even more so, when as you know quite well, this Letter does not raise the matter of a simple dispute on a specific issue, but an issue of compatibility with the European Community law of an article, of primary importance for our country, of the Greek Constitution and its implementing legislation. Moreover, based on our conclusions from similar cases, the procedure followed by the Commission when a similar problem arose in the past was not the same; and it should not be the same concerning such issues, since article I-5 (Relations between the Union and the Member States) of the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe (under ratification – a process where as you know our country is among the first) expressly stipulates that: » the Union shall respect the equality of Member States before the constitution as well as their national identities, inherent in their fundamental structures, political and constitutional …» Having stated, therefore, these objections – which we believe you will agree are reasonable – we are replying to your Letter by analyzing, on the basis of the Community law, which choices has the Greek constitutional legislator made regarding the matter at issue (article 14, par. 9 of the Greek Constitution) and, subsequently, the reason for which the relevant implementing legislation of the Constitution is compatible with European Community law. We are convinced that in light of our common interest to safeguard the plurality and objectivity of the media within the European Union as well as the accomplishment of their mission without any deviation, this exchange of views and opinions will lead to resolving the issue of compatibility of the implementing legislation of our Constitution with the requirements of Community law, both primary and secondary.

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