Much has been written and said about the recent intervention made by former conservative prime minister Kostas Karamanlis, who called for a thorough and transparent investigation of the wiretapping scandal. The shockwaves it caused on the domestic political scene may not have come as a surprise given that the longest-serving leader of New Democracy and premier of five-and-a-half years is still very popular and influential among the ranks of the ruling conservatives.
It also sparked a lot of speculation as to his motives for demanding that light be cast on who ordered the wiretaps and why.
However, if you step back from the stir it caused inside the party and beyond, what he said was nothing more than the obvious need for clarity and transparency; as he explained, catharsis in such cases only comes when they are completely cleared up.
There is also another dimension that is often overlooked by those too deeply involved in domestic politics and, even worse, inner-party workings, and that has to do with the damage inflicted on the country’s international image by stories and commentaries on the wiretapping affair by leading media like The New York Times, Politico and Der Spiegel.
The methods of a string of state institutions, including the sensitive area of the secret services, have to change; they need to become more transparent and effective. The old practice of some leaders doing what they liked with these institutions cannot be repeated. Through this prism, and in order to safeguard continuity, we need to see the main political parties working together in order to reform how the secret services function. Regardless of who is in power, the state needs to operate in a way that inspires trust in citizens, something which, everyone agrees, is not the case today.
At this stage, there are two messages that need to be conveyed, domestically and also internationally: first that an investigation is under way into what was a mistake that harmed the country’s image and the probe has the support of all parties and the public; and, second, that changes are in the pipeline to improve how state agencies and institutions work so that they serve the national interest rather than a party or an individual.