OPINION

Fake certificates

The decision by the Council of State (CoS) Wednesday to temporarily suspend the so-called certificates of transparency that were granted by the National Radio and Television Council (ESR) to the Aktor and Pantechniki construction companies confirms what we never tire to point out – that the safety valves against political and business entanglement, as wanting as they may be legally, have always merely been treated as obstacles to be bypassed with a myriad of pretexts. Indeed, the victims, as it were, of legal restrictions, meaning those who both control media and construction firms which sign state contracts, have divvied up their roles so that one member of the family controls the media side while another is in charge of construction firms. Needless to say, this was an ostensible division that treated legal obstacles as no more than minor hitches to be overcome. And though even a child could see that the media moguls went on signing contracts with the State, the authorities were happy with the official ESR transparency certificates and with assurances that the media barons’ relatives, who appeared to control most of the construction firms, were «economically autonomous.» The ruling by Greece’s highest administrative court challenges the validity of transparency certificates as well as the relatives’ «economically autonomous» status. The court ruling highlights the ease with which ESR issues its transparency certificates. The decision also discredits the chairman, the members and functioning of ESR which seems to have ignored its legal obligation in scrutinizing applications. At the same time, the temporary annulment exposes the flaws in Greece’s administrative and legal system that first allowed the entanglement between media groups and construction firms to flourish and then tried to make an impression by introducing inelastic legal provisions (which according to the CoS rapporteur could run up against European law). In practice, these legal provisions were ignored, as the state authorities were willing to believe that it is not the same shareholders who control the media and construction firms, merely people who happen to be relatives. The farce may have served the interests of some people, but fell short of convincing the country’s top administrative court. Once again, Greece is faced with the challenge of purging state contracts of corruption and, in doing so, using not just political methods that respect genuine «economic autonomy» and EU law, but also means that will respect free market principles – not to mention public intelligence.