NEWS

Venizelos still on defensive over royal row

The government yesterday sought to play down the clash between Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Thursday over the issue of the compensation that Greece is likely to have to pay the country’s former king for the confiscation of his property. Even though the government spokesman said that no criticism had been aimed at Venizelos, the culture minister continued to defend himself yesterday. During a Cabinet meeting on Thursday, Simitis had reportedly spoken of «mistakes of the past.» Venizelos, who drew up the 1994 law stripping Constantine and his family of the property, had replied heatedly that he would not accept such criticism and charged that it was the government that had changed position and caused the present problem. The European Court of Human Rights is expected to rule in favor of rich compensation for the former monarch, with some information reaching Athens saying that this could come to about 176 million euros (60 billion drachmas). The court is waiting for Greece to submit a memorandum on what it is offering. The confiscated property is valued at 187.5 billion drachmas, according to an evaluation commissioned by the government. Although Simitis is believed to still be angry with Venizelos for his outburst on Thursday, the government spokesman yesterday sought to ease the tension. «Various opinions are expressed in every discussion, and, indeed, there was a rich discussion on this specific subject,» Christos Protopappas said in reference to the Cabinet meeting. But, he added, «No one questioned Mr Venizelos’s sufficiency and capability.» Venizelos, on the other hand, speaking on the Antenna channel, said that the law on the former king’s property had been shaped during the time when Andreas Papandreou was prime minister, «And many members of today’s government were in the Cabinet, including the prime minister, who was then industry minister.» He complained that in recent years he, Venizelos, had been left out of the meetings planning tactics on the issue, noting that «it would be good if we all shared the same amount of information.» The monarchy was abolished by referendum in 1974. The 1994 legislation strips Constantine and the former royal family of their properties in Tatoi, Polydendri and Corfu.