Vatopedi divides parties

As was the case last year, the five parliamentary parties each issued their own concluding reports yesterday in the Vatopedi land-swap inquiry, which is now likely to be succeeded by a preliminary judicial investigation that will also be carried out by MPs. This was the second parliamentary investigation into the allegations that a real estate exchange between the state and the Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos had been heavily weighted in the monks’ favor and cost taxpayers millions of euros. MPs could not agree on a common conclusion the first time and were split along party lines the second time as well, disagreeing about which former ministers should be investigated further. There was, however, an acknowledgment by PASOK that two of its ex-ministers, Giorgos Dris and Apostolos Fotiadis, had set the wheels in motion for the deal more than a decade ago by following up on the monastery’s claim to land around Lake Vistonida in northeastern Greece. It was the deal to give Vatopedi this land that led to New Democracy officials serving in the last government then working out an exchange to get the property back in return for other real estate. PASOK concluded that at least six members of the previous government, Theodoros Roussopoulos, Petros Doukas, Evangelos Bassiakos, Alexandros Kontos, Giorgos Voulgarakis and Giorgos Kiltidis, should face further investigation. New Democracy argued that none of its officials did anything wrong and were simply tidying up the mess left by the previous government. It has been alleged that aides of former Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, including Roussopoulos, pushed through the property swap even though it appeared to be of much greater benefit to the monastery, with which some members of the previous conservative government had close ties. The reports were delivered to Parliament Speaker Filippos Petsalnikos, who will in due course put them up for discussion in the House. It requires the signatures of just 30 MPs for a preliminary judicial investigation to be launched by Parliament. It is not yet clear if such a probe would begin next month or in September, after the summer recess.