Laws aplenty, but no enforcement

No doubt Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis had the best of intentions in inviting the opposition parties to set up a parliamentary comittee to legislate tougher controls on party funding. Even PASOK leader George Papandreou, who was initially dragged through the mud by the gutter press that had hastily accused the prime minister of resorting to fireworks, was forced to admit that such a committee is necessary. Of course the smaller parties, which like hyenas are waiting to snatch votes from the larger ones, will start howling about two-party politics, but if the committee completes its job quickly it might just save the honor of the political world which has taken a beating from repeated scandals. Pending the committee’s findings, Karamanlis might find time to take other initiatives to show people he is sincere when he talks about zero tolerance for corruption. What might these be? Quite simply, enforcing existing legislation, pending new legislation to control political funding. Indeed, when Greece’s ruling and opposition parties are pushed into a political corner they usually react by proposing new laws that are supposed to cure all ills. For example, Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis keeps announcing ways to fight tax evasion but refuses to enforce existing legislation that treats it as a crime, particularly when a company withholds VAT payments from the state – a typical case of robbing the state and one that largely goes unpunished. With regard to transparency in party funding, in 2002 all the political parties agreed to pass a law making it compulsory for all their expenditures to be transacted through bank accounts in Greece. Depositors have to be identified by name and banks are obliged to make the information available to the relevant parliamentary committee if so requested. That law has never been enforced. So if Karamanlis really wants a clean-up, he only has to give the order.