The Novartis case and transparency

The Novartis case and transparency

Transparency is a great thing – so great that every democratic country should have it. In that sense, a recent opinion piece in Ta Nea newspaper by Movement for Change (KINAL) MP and former health minister Andreas Loverdos in which he asks for the next Parliament to examine “SYRIZA’s attempt to establish a state separate from the democracy of transparency” makes sense.

In the same piece, Loverdos also said that “respect for the Constitution and the ability to remember recent painful memories are the political requirements to uncover very serious cases, with Novartis being the most serious.” But was the Novartis frame-up really the most important case in the four-year effort by former coalition partners SYRIZA and Independent Greeks (ANEL) to harm democracy?

Don’t take this the wrong way, an attempt by a government (and some strange mechanisms within the judicial system) to taint the reputation of its top political opponents – including two former prime ministers – is a very serious matter. But if this half-baked plan erodes democracy, then the so-called Plan B or X of former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis (and the strange team he had built inside the ministry) was a direct threat to the existence of democracy itself.

As I had noted in a commentary published in Kathimerini in 2015 when the existence of this plan – which was kept secret even from the Parliament –- first came to light, and before the hair-raising details regarding the involvement of the Ministry of Defense in the “post-euro” phase were revealed by American economist James Galbraith, Plan X was the equivalent of another, murky emergency plan from 1961, code-named Pericles, which was aimed at manipulating the outcome of that year’s elections. They both used the same excuse: They were supposed to prepare the country for a worst-case scenario.

“Countries must have plans for any eventuality,” I said in 2015. “However, democracies also require the democratic legitimacy of these plans… because [in the past] we had such plans imposed on us, supposedly ‘for our own good’ – a ‘good’ which we knew nothing about.”

We therefore need transparency everywhere, as Loverdos says, and not just in the Novartis conspiracy. The reason is that, if this case is singled out, it will be viewed as vengeful behavior by the new government, as some of the politicians named in the case will now have access to power.

Then again, what kind of transparency can we hope to have in a country where the legal framework facilitates the rhetorical cover-up of such cases? In the Novartis case, several people have talked about a guy nicknamed Rasputin, whom nobody dares name due to the censorship laws voted in by Loverdos, former conservative prime minister Antonis Samaras and former PASOK finance minister Evangelos Venizelos.

Transparency requires, most importantly, freedom of speech and, secondly, proper judicial procedures.

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