NEWS

What’s behind the Souflias-Dimas clash?

Souflias has come under increasing pressure and his personal reputation has been damaged due to various issues such as the legality of his country home. Speaking in Parliament, Souflias said, «If a zoning authority can trouble a minister to such an extent, imagine what they will do to ordinary citizens.» However, he avoided taking any initiative that might improve the process for either ministers or citizens. When confronted by criticism over environmental issues, Souflias often resorts to political demagogy or personal attacks. Typical of these has been his clash with the European Commissioner for the Environment, Stavros Dimas, a man Souflias loves to hate. The ministry has issued announcements accusing Dimas of carrying on a personal vendetta and hinted that he was among the interest groups opposed to Souflias. Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos officially supported Souflias but generally walks a fine line between the two men. An increasing number of ND government officials are distancing themselves from Souflias, both personally and politically, fearing that he does not have his finger on the pulse of voters who are becoming more concerned abut the environment. He also appears to be digging in his heels, in contrast with the prime minister whose image is more conciliatory. For example, Souflias was always strongly opposed to a separate environment ministry until Karmanalis promised one in his campaign platform. And Souflias’s announcement last Friday that a separate ministry would be set up within a year and a half is not progress, merely something he had agreed would happen by the end of 2009. In private, ND cadres admit that behind the Souflias-Dimas dispute is nothing more than the lack of any environmental policy on the part of the minister and by extension, the entire government. And they are concerned that the entire party will have to pay for it.