Parliamentary committee reacts to Souflias’s statements

The aftereffects of an interview with European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas that appeared in Kathimerini on Monday, in which he called on Greece to implement more effective ecological measures, continued to reverberate in Athens this week. Dimas said Greece was the only European Union country to be required by the United Nations compliance committee for the Kyoto Protocol to explain its poor record on measuring carbon dioxide emissions. The interview prompted an outburst from Environment and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias Wednesday, accusing Dimas of turning a disagreement between the two over a particular issue «into a personal attack» and of trying to «build up his own image every time he visited Greece.» He also said Dimas had taken a «negative stand on many issues of Greek interest.» At a meeting of the parliamentary environment committee the following day, its chairman, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and former Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis sided with Dimas. The two accused Souflias of embarrassing the country by issuing statements critical of the commissioner and of creating a problem in Greece’s relations with the European Commission. «I would like to express my concern over the turn the debate has taken, but also over the tone of the minister’s statement,» Mitsotakis told the committee meeting. Tatoulis took a harsher approach. «This affair does not serve our country’s interests,» he said. «It must be understood that no one should damage the country’s image abroad.» Their statements were echoed by opposition parties members, who stated Souflias’s reaction had been a mistake. «Instead of exploiting the fact that we have a Greek commissioner who can solve problems, (Souflias) admits he expected the Greek commissioner to carry out the government’s policy in the European Commission,» said PASOK’s Spyros Kouvelis. Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Deputy Michalis Papayiannakis said Souflias’s statements «abolished channels of communication» between the government and the Commission. «It isn’t the New Democracy party or Mr Souflias who represents us abroad, but Greece’s foreign policy.»