Meddling with justice

One need not be a legal expert to know that the Supreme Court and the Council of State (CoS) are the two pillars of Greek justice whose rulings safeguard the rule of law in the country. Every law student knows this. However, the public has started to question the role of the CoS, the country’s highest administrative court. Public skepticism is fueled by government officials’ repeated comments challenging the soundness of the court’s verdicts. A minister of the Simitis government a few years ago went as far as to denounce what he said were right-wing CoS judges hampering the work of the then-Socialist government. A conservative minister recently criticized the court for allegedly putting the brakes on the government’s development projects. The CoS rulings show that its members consider themselves to be the country’s law-makers, a bitter Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias told journalists on Tuesday. Such statements have tarnished the court’s image in the eyes of the public. Worse, the state’s executive branch is responsible for this. What is really the problem then? Has the administrative court failed to fulfill its mission as set out in the constitution? Or does the institution come under fire from the country’s executive precisely because it does a good job compelling governments to act in line with the law? Whatever the reason, such verbal outbursts against the CoS are unacceptable. How can we expect to have a smoothly functioning democracy when executive power is at loggerheads with a key judicial arm? For the time being this is, unfortunately, possible. And Greece is once again, notoriously, an exception.

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