Greece has come under fire for failing to implement the recommendations of the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), despite mounting pressure by the body to strengthen its criminal legislation.
GRECO’s four recommendations came after the former Greek government under firebrand leftist Alexis Tsipras moved in June 2019 to amend the country’s Criminal Code to downgrade the criminal classifications for bribery cases that involve public officials. As a result of the reclassification, bribery was no long a felony, and was downgraded to a misdemeanor, which severely softened the punishment for public officials who are involved in graft schemes.
Following an outcry from the international community and the Council of Europe, the Greek government in Athens, under the current government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, restored the original felony status in November 2019, however in a manner that did not satisfy GRECO’s prerequisites, as it foresaw softer punishments for bribery.
Almost a year after a GRECO that slammed Greece over the role of Greek prosecutors in corruption cases, money-laundering schemes and creating legal loopholes for milder punishment for bribery cases, the Council of Europe body found that none of the four recommendations contained in the report have been implemented to date.
GRECO has already expressed its concerns, saying that under the current circumstances, bribery cases are not fully covered by the law and prosecutors may recuse themselves in bribery cases. GRECO has further stressed that punishment for bribery should be applied to all cases, even those that are minor.
Under GRECO’s urgent call for action, the Greek government has been told that it must fully criminalize bribery, particularly when it concerns foreign public servants, judges and other members of the judiciary, in line with the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption.
An expert committee has been created in a bid to deal with the recommendations. Greece is set to submit its report to GRECO by late October 2021.