Following New Democracy’s victory in the 2019 elections, Akis Skertsos was on July 9 appointed Deputy Minister to the Prime Minister responsible for the Coordination of Governmental Work (Presidential Decree 83/9.7.2019 | Government Gazette A ‘121/9.7.2019). He held this office until August 13, 2021, when he resigned in the context of a government reshuffle (Presidential Decree 55/13.8.2021 | Government Gazette A ‘141/13.8.2021). The same day, Mr. Skertsos was appointed Minister of State (Presidential Decree 56/13.8.2021 | Government Gazette A ‘142/13.8.2021), which he remains at the time of writing.
The appointment of Mr. Skertsos as Deputy Minister to the Prime Minister proved controversial because according to his CV, he was General Manager of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) from June 2014 to June 2019, up until just a few days before taking office. In fact, in the period immediately before taking this position in SEV, Mr. Skertsos was Director of the office of the Minister of Finance, Giannis Stournaras, from July 2012-June 2014.
The term ‘revolving doors’ describes the phenomenon in which legislators and politicians become lobbyists or advisers to the industries over which they exercised oversight or control when working for the public authorities or, vice versa, when executives of industries or their associations are appointed to managerial or governmental positions dealing with issues relating to their work in the private sector. The transition of Mr. Skertsos from the position of General Manager in SEV to the post of Deputy Minister coordinating work on development and industry, fulfills the definition of the revolving door phenomenon.
Although Greek law contains measures to avoid conflicts of interest in governmental positions and in senior civil service posts, it does not effectively provide for all cases of revolving doors.
Articles 68-76 of Law 4622/2019 (Government Gazette A ‘133/7.8.2019 as amended by subsequent legislation) regulates incompatibilities for governmental appointments. The law stipulates that for all persons appointed as members of the government and deputy ministers “the exercise of any professional or business activity is automatically suspended.” Members of the government are required to obtain a permit from the Ethics Committee of the National Transparency Authority if they wish to undertake any professional activity related to the area of their work within government within one year of their departure from their post, to avoid conflict of interest. This means that a person can effectively immediately move from the private sector to a public office.
It should be noted that the report from the Fifth Round Evaluation of the Council of Europe Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), “sees merit in strengthening and adapting some aspects of the revolving door standard,” and recommends that, “the post-employment regime be reviewed in order to assess its adequacy and that it be strengthened by broadening its scope in respect of persons with top executive functions.”
A state governed by the rule of law should provide concrete measures to transparently and effectively combat the phenomenon of revolving doors and conflicts of interest.
However, as the case of Mr. Skertsos shows, Greece has not adopted a legal framework that covers all these cases and which specifically lays down the rules and conditions under which an industry advisor or executive may, with the restrictions necessary for the protection of the public interest, be appointed to a governmental or public position which has supervisory responsibilities for the activities of the industry.
The lack of such measures makes it easier for former executives of private companies holding public office to exert influence and lobby, satisfying private interests to the detriment of the public and citizens.
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