Simitis’s memos

Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s memo to all of his deputies, reported yesterday, asking them to carry out all their outstanding tasks by the end of June, was not the first of its sort. It makes one wonder what the point is of making public the prime minister’s customary duty of hammering out and monitoring government policy as laid out in the Constitution and the relevant legislation. Simitis inaugurated this practice of «public cooperation» with his ministers immediately after the 2001 Socialist party congress. Ever since, Simitis has sent memos with directions, recommendations and specified time frames to his ministers about every six months. The main conclusion that can be drawn by examining these «open memos» is the sluggishness, if not the complete stagnation, of government work. In his memo, Simitis also expressed his concerns over the fact that the Socialist cadres have failed to fulfill the 12 immediate and central priorities that he laid out late last year – again in a similar memo. In light of these, one could claim that Simitis must have misunderstood his role which – particularly after PASOK’s two constitutional revisions – appears to have veered off leadership into the realm of dominion. To put it plainly, by announcing his orders, directions and observations to his ministers in public every six months, Simitis does not render them accountable to the public, nor does he diffuse his prime-ministerial responsibility among the 42 members of his government. The power awarded to him by the Constitution and which he has exercised over the last seven years entails an accompanying responsibility: a responsibility for all the good and evil deeds committed by his ministers and close aides.