Greek government did not engage with illegal spying software: EU Parliament Inquiry


The Greek government did not engage in the use of illegal spying software concluded an EU Parliamentary inquiry following the recent scandal involving a Greek Opposition Party parliamentarian who accused the Mitsotakis government of spying on him.

The European Parliament's Committee of Inquiry to investigate the use of Pegasus and equivalent surveillance spyware (PEGA) that met in Athens did not find outright evidence of the use of an illegal spying software by the Greek authorities, Committee Chair Jeroen Lenaers in a press conference on Friday.

Lenaers added however, after the conclusion of the committee's meetings in Greece, that what remains to be done is to thoroughly examine the complaints referring to Pegasus and other illegal software.
PEGA welcomed the Greek government's initiative to adopt new legislation on conditions of phone surveillance and introduce stricter judicial supervision, noting the active cooperation with the Greek authorities unlike that of other EU states like those of Poland or Hungary, with which he said there is no comparison in terms of rule of law or freedom of the press.

"We did not find outright evidence of corruption, or the kind of authoritarian practises we witnessed in Poland and that are reportedly happening in Hungary, but some more effort needs to be done to ensure transparency," stated Lenaers.

"Any allegations of abuse of surveillance have to be thoroughly investigated and necessary safeguards should be installed. I am glad that, unlike some other countries, the governments of Cyprus and Greece made effort to actively cooperate with the PEGA Committee, and responded to our questions," Lenaers said. He added, "they shared their proposals for reforms that could bolster the fundamental rights of the citizens of Cyprus, Greece and the EU. In Greece, they will be subject of public consultation in the coming months. These reforms should improve transparency and ensure appropriate judicial oversight over the use of surveillance. We look forward to seeing concrete legislation and policies to be put in place."

The PEGA chair said that in his meeting with State Minister Giorgos Gerapetritis they discussed "the best-known surveillance cases" and the greater themes of mass media pluralism, as well as the state of law in Greece.

Rapporteur Sophie in 't Veld said that after visiting Cyprus and Greece for almost four days, "we leave with perhaps more questions than we had when we arrived."

As she clarified, "We've heard worrying reports of journalists feeling unsafe when they write about important topics, of the supposedly independent data protection authority being put under pressure, and of national security used as blanket justification for spyware abuse and surveillance. It seems that spyware companies form a murky web of connections that may also extend to public authorities, even though EU laws on beneficial ownership registries were designed to shed light on such information."

In the EU, in 't Veld said, "We need clear rules for limiting the use of national security as grounds for surveillance, ensuring proper judicial oversight, and guaranteeing a healthy, pluralist media environment."