Tuesday 30 September 2014

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Call for EU project for the next 5 years

Posted by on 30/09/14
Caught between the appointment of the new EU leaders (European Parliament, European Commission, Council) and global crises involving the Islamic State, Russia, energy, unemployment among young, and immigrants in the Mediterranean, politicians run the risk of forgetting the message given by the European citizens too quickly. In May 2014, four months ago, the European Parliament [...]

Re-branding Greece: 7 Tips for Sustainable Nation Branding

Posted by on 29/09/14
By Stavros Papagianneas Between 2009 and 2011, Greece went from being seen as a full member of the eurozone to “Ground Zero” in the Nation Brand Index. Today, it is time for a rebranding of the country. Here's seven ways Greece can put itself on the map again...

Open Letter to Margarthe Vestager, EU Commissioner-designate for Competition

Posted by on 29/09/14
This open letter is a guest contribution by Bruno Guillard, founder and CEO of 1PLUSV. Dear Ms Vestager, The death penalty was abolished in Europe decades ago – for human beings only.  In the corporate world, it continues.  In the Internet corporate world, it accelerates. My company, a French technology start up,1plusV, is just one of [...]

Is Malmström on the same page as Juncker on TTIP?

Posted by on 29/09/14
Cecilia Malmström during her hearing today
The European Parliament kicked off its hearings of Commission nominees today, with most of the attention focused on Sweden's Cecilia Malmström, the current Home Affairs Commissioner who has been handed the hugely important Trade portfolio. The hearing was eagerly anticipated due to the controversy around certain aspects of the EU-Canada (CETA) and EU-US (TTIP) free trade deals; specifically around investor safeguard clauses (ISDS).

Indeed, the hearing managed to make waves in Germany (where the issue is particularly sensitive), after Malmström's written response to initial questions from MEPs suggested that she rejected the need for ISDS in TTIP. German Green MEP Sven Giegold posted the relevant section on his website:
As the President-elect Juncker has committed himself to in his Political Guidelines..."no limitation of the jurisdiction of courts in the EU Member States will be accepted in [TTIP]; this clearly means that no Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanism will be part of that agreement."
However, this version - sent out to MEPs on Friday - was subsequently re-called, and the new version published on the Commission's website now reads:
As the President-elect Juncker has committed himself to in his Political Guidelines... he will "not accept that the jurisdiction of courts in the EU Member States is limited by special regimes for investor disputes."
In other words, a clear change from ruling out ISDS altogether to a much more qualified acceptance. This change was subject to much speculation on Twitter, and Malmström herself claimed it was "simply the wrong version".

However, at today's hearing, Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake claimed that the Microsoft Word version sent out on Friday contained 'track changes' made by none other than Martin Selmayr, Jean-Claude Juncker's chief of staff (seemingly confirming rumours in Brussels about Selmayr's "Rasputin-like qualities"). Malmström replied that she had agreed to Juncker's office inserting a quote from Juncker and tried to brush off the affair as a "misunderstanding" and an "over-interpretation", basically denying that she and Juncker were at odds over the ISDS question.

In her opening remarks and in answers to questions, Malmström strongly endorsed the principle of free trade and TTIP specifically, which rather dominated the debate, while also defending European social and environmental standards (there is always something for everyone in the European Parliament). On ISDS, she defended the principle, while clarifying that she was committed to transparency and qualifications - such as protections for national parliaments to legislate in the national interest. She claimed that there was no need to renegotiate ISDS in CETA, as without it the deal could fall apart, that the EU itself would want to include ISDS in future agreements with other parties, but added that possibly it could be excluded altogether from TTIP - so far from a coherent line overall.

Malmström put in a solid performance - with the right mixture of assertiveness and reassurance - and it is certainly good to have a pro-trade voice in that role. However, as the shenanigans over her written answers demonstrate, there are questions over whether Malmström and Juncker are on the same page on TTIP.

Launch of Next Europe

Posted by on 29/09/14

My new book Next Europe is now officially launched. Of course this comes with a modest campaign to create attention for the book.

I published several opinion articles, on news sites as well as in the Dutch paper Het Parool. You can read the ‘launch article’ at EurActiv (English) and on Opiniestukken.nl (Dutch).

The presentation took place on September 22 at the Press Club in Brussels. More than 100 people attended the event. First I gave a short summary (link to Prezi) of Next Europe to the audience, followed by the handover to Constantijn van Oranje-Nassau, chief of cabinet of Commissioner Kroes. A panel of experts – Shada Islam of Friends of Europe, Claude Grunitzky of TRUE, and Marietje Schaake of the European Parliament – gave their first responses.

Constantijn van Oranje on the book: ‘This is a very good read for everybody. I am sure to take your ideas with me and I hope we can contribute to solving the challenges that are put forward by you in Next Europe.’

Shada Islam: ‘This is an insightful study of Europe by a young, thoughtful EU Watcher.’

Dutch public radio 1 made a report on the launch event, you can listen to it here.

On October 14, Next Europe will be presented in Amsterdam, followed by a debate with Paul Scheffer and Adriaan Schout. Programme and registration on the site of Pakhuis de Zwijger

Photos of the Brussels launch, September 22 at the Press Club



Heating Buildings only to 16 Centigrade?

Posted by on 29/09/14

Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kiev, has recently warned his citizens that they might have to do with home temperatures of no more than 16° during the next winter in order to cope with gas and coal shortages, due to the tense economic and financial situation of the country.

For the average European, let alone American citizen this is unimaginable, except for Europeans who have experienced the years from 1945 to 1948.

But will this be unthinkable forever?

Who guarantees that we shall not be hit again by reduced gas supplies from Russia and difficulties to rapidly replace them by alternative alternative sources?

And more dangerous, though less immediate, are we sure that we must not one day radically reduce our coal, oil and gas consumption in order to put a brake on climate change?

This should normally happen by switching to renewable sources and higher energy efficiency, including through perfectly insulated buildings. But that may not be enough to allow us the luxury of heating our housing and offices at 22-24°! We better remember venerable traditions of wearing sweaters and warm shoes at home to feel well at only 18°. It would save a lot of energy and money.

Our grandchildren will be grateful.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 25/9/2014

Greece is the poorest country in the EU

Posted by on 29/09/14

Since 2008 the Greek state has experienced one of the deepest and persistent financial and economic crisis in its short history. A crisis that has dismantled its social nets, increased unemployment to unprecedented levels, broken out extreme right parties, lowered trust to the entire political and banking system. In contrary to other countries in the EU that implement programs against social inequality, Greece is way long behind reaching the minimum levels of a so-called “welfare state”. People vie for social care more than ever, but state’s reaction to increasing demands is considered inconsistent and burdened with bureaucratic dysfunctions. Meanwhile, there are no prospects for recapturing income losses in the near future.

Greece is the only member-states in the EU that has not implemented the guaranteed minimum income (GMI) system. There are no criteria for establishing the lowest level of living conditions, and there is no political consensus with reference to the minimum wage requirement that is necessary for someone in order to avoid being considered as poor or socially excluded. In many cases, those eligible for receiving state aid, cannot successfully advance for job opportunities, and remain desperately dependent to the slow bureaucratic procedures.

In the meantime, according to a recent study of the Research Committee of the Greek Parliament, 2,5 million people are found below the minimum income line, i.e. referred to the income that is not sustainable to acquire a minimum living standard, whereas 3,8 million people are at risk of poverty due to lack of income, shelter or food. In other words, and in real-economy terms, over 5,5 million people in Greece are either unable to pay their daily living or close to become so. In a population of around 11 million, more than 1/2 Greeks or citizens of Greece are considered poor.

As we have many times wrote over the past couple of years, the problem in Greece is so complex and unique that no study can effectively address it. Nor any politician can tackle it in absence of the necessary consensus by the entire political system. To a certain degree, the problem is found in the slow process of bureaucracy, the lack of cross-reference when dealing with annual income by the relevant authorities, the deep distrust over the tax system. On the other hand, the incompetence of the civil society to influence and affect decision and policy-making is also considered as a major drawback.

Under the current economic conditions, and in areas that the state cannot reach, there are some minimum efforts that can be assumed by private sector’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) through the civil society and the support of volunteer centers. The first recommendation is to guarantee food and shelter for everyone; the second one is to connect income policy with volunteer or social work and lifelong learning; the third one is the issuance of coupons for the purchase of basic goods and services that are not covered by the current social policy; the fourth one is the broadening of social clinics in highly-affected areas for the treatment of unemployed, people without social insurance, and immigrants.

However simple and rational such policies might sound, they demand a high mobilization and effective campaigning – and here is where CSR and well-known foundations can bring about developments, along with civil society organizations that do have the know-how and the will to proceed accordingly.

Education is the fundamental driver for Kosovo

Posted by on 29/09/14
Guest blogpost by Arif Shala, doctoral student at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, Germany and executive director at the Institute for Economic Development Studies in Prishtine, Kosovo. How does a country pave its way towards economic growth and prosperity? Why is it that some countries simply never seem to be able to overcome their [...]

‘Save the Bees’ Ban: Who is to Blame?

Posted by on 29/09/14
The recent precautionary ban on neonicotinoid pesticides to save the bees has gone badly wrong in less than a year. Oilseed rape crops are being devastated and Member States are now allowing neonics to be used as emergency measures. Farmers and scientists had warned anyone who would listen, but no one in the European Commission was interested in dialogue. Remember the basic maxim: Never outsource policy-making to campaign-driven activists.

Arias Cañete is not a sauce

Posted by on 29/09/14

Seemingly, everything what makes a detour to Arias Cañete, at least from his appointment like head of list of the PP for the choices to the European Parliament (without mentioning yogures expired and cold showers), it looks like a sauce:

Rajoy was late, almost up to the legal limit, his appointment. In words of the own Cañete, he did not find out for Rajoy but for Cospedal’s SMS. The electoral, campaign totally unexpected and bordering on the scorn to the citizens, was a complete nonsense that culminated with his declarations machists towards Elena Valenciano.

After a pírrica victory of the PP, already we have Cañete in the European Parliament. Now it begins the second part, which is the most interesting: the battle for a good position in the European Commission. Rajoy plays to two bands: it loves Luis de Guindos in the Eurogroup and to Cañete in Competition. But clear, it is not possible to have everything at the same time.

It pleases Merkel de Guindos, but the same thing does not happen to him with Cañete. Juncker offers him in the first instance the portfolio of Investigation, Development and Innovation. Cañete’s response, for anger of thousands of Spanish investigators, does not make to him wait: ” this portfolio is an insult “.

It is necessary to continue the negotiations to satisfy the ego of Rajoy and of Cañete. Finally it seems that one finds a solution: Juncker offers the portfolio of Climate and Energy.

Here the sauce to stop having grace: The means attribute Cañete to be the maker of one more than polemic Law of coasts, of there be loading the industries of renewable energies in Spain – in which we were top – in benefit of the oil companies, in some of which, Cañete has occupied important charges and is a shareholder.

To wash his image before the examination of the European Parliament next October 1, Cañete (to which, only in spite of throwing a glimpse to the paragraph III of his Declaration of interests, it is possible to calculate a fortune of more than 600.000 €, without counting real estate) it has sold his actions in the petroleum ones and expects to be able to demonstrate that it of the machismo it is an infundio. In any case, the means indicate Cañete as the weakest link of the chain, which has more possibilities of being reproved by the European Parliament. Let’s hope that the sauce does not end in drama. Still it is possible to avoid this ” scandalous European mistake “.

Published in Our Europe


EP Hearings of Commissioners: Will MEPs claim any notable scalps?

Posted by on 28/09/14
By Open Europe On Monday we will see the first hearings of European Commission nominees by the European Parliament committees responsible for their respective policy areas. MEPs are not able to strike down individual Commissioners but they do have a veto over the Commission as a whole. Which nominees are in the Parliament's cross hairs?

Turkey is EU’s stronghold against the ISIS

Posted by on 28/09/14

The Islamic Caliphate (i.e. and not “State” as many refer to it, as it is neither sovereign nor recognized) has been regarded as one of the biggest threats for the Western world and for the always-fragile stability in Middle East. With incomparable organization, power, execution pace, and strong influence, and with funding from unknown sources, the Islamic Caliphate seems drawn from history books referred to the crusades of tens of thousands of Christian knights crossing Europe to fight against and conquer Jerusalem from Saladin and his Muslim fighters.

The brutality and harshness of Caliphate’s fighters is strange to the Westerners, who forget NATO’s atrocities in numerous cases in the recent past, as for instance during the invasion in Iraq in 2003. Both European and US citizens are not familiar with the decapitation of their own journalists, nor with the massive massacres of Iraqis, Syrians, Kurds, men, women and children. In our “delicate” or “human” perception of war and battle, we are more familiar with the image of NATO’s aircrafts, highly-equipped soldiers and officers that march in  Middle East, in perfect shape and condition, being escorted by the mighty Apache helicopters. Our perception of warfare ends there – and then the cameras shut down and information gets restricted. In the contrary, the jihadists are sending decapitation videos, videos of massacres, and threatening messages against the Christians, insisting that their doom’s day has finally arrived.

In this respect, and regardless of the military invasion of the US and possibly of other allies, the role of Turkey is of paramount importance as a stronghold against the march of the Islamic Caliphate towards the European Union.  Turkey possess both the military capacity to strike back the jihadists, as well as the power to balance or ignite conflicting interests within their leadership.

Without confirming nor denying any contact with Islamic Caliphate’s leaders, President Erdogan can determine developments in the region and assume an effective mediating role on behalf of the wider front against the Caliphate. He can also incite these developments that could impede or control the entry and activation of jihadists in the EU both via Turkey or through the Eastern Balkans. His renouncing to embark in the US invasion, despite the pressure exerted by President Obama – a situation that resembles a lot with that of 2003 when President George W. Bush was insisting that US troops need to pass through Turkish soil to invade Iraq, but Erdogan was turning him down –  proves that he possibly has a certain plan on how to confront with the Caliphate, without forcing Turkey to get involved militarily alongside the US. From that prism, and as long as the goals of perseverance of the Islamic Caliphate are unknown, Erdogan prefers to stand by, shaping an image of confidence and determination in the media that his decision is driven by long-term incentives in the light of safeguarding Turkey’s security.

Should his decision proves accurate, both in terms of restraining the Islamic Caliphate, as well as in terms of weakening its influence ,with or without military involvement, it is certain that he would have achieved something big in a another field of negotiation: given his decision to (re)itinerate Turkey towards the EU and thaw membership negotiations, the balance of power between Brussels, Berlin, Paris and London from one side, and Ankara form the other side, would definitely lean in favor of the latter.

Parliament Single Seat(s)? Europe’s peace in Strasbourg, EU democracy in Brussels

Posted by on 28/09/14
The journalist Richard Hill asked me for a contribution on the ‘single seat’, for the upcoming magazine of BECI, the Brussels business organisation. Here is the full version of my view, taking a broader view than just costs and time.   ” The European Parliament’s Single Seat campaign has been going on for years, mainly [...]

Humanity must stop building new and phase out existing coal power plants

Posted by on 28/09/14

The UN Climate Summit on September 24, 2014 has once again underlined the threat of global warming and climate change for future generations but stopped short of responses to what constitutes the overriding challenge for Humanity.

A mobilisation event is not enough, even if the thousands of people that flocked the streets in USA and Europe have been impressive.

Action is required; and it must come urgently and be effective. Bottom-up approaches by cities, regions or corporations are welcome but too tiny to have a global impact.

To keep the planet temperature from rising beyond the critical two centigrade humanity must reduce C02 emissions between 40 and 70% until the middle of the century, which only the EU has pledged to do so far, with its 80-95 reduction target.

In order to be successful the international community must focus on the major countries and sources accounting for the high and rising level of C02 emissions:

  • China, USA, EU, India, Japan, Russia, Brazil, Indonesia, Korea, Canada and Australia are jointly responsible for more than three quarters of total emissions. Without them joining the efforts there will be no effective action and no way to prevent havoc: USA, EU, Japan, Russia, Korea, Canada and Australia will, of course, have to deliver much more than emerging countries.
  • Fossil energies are the main sources driving climate change accounting for roughly 80% of the global C02 output.

Humanity has become fossil-addicted; very few people can imagine 9-11 billion human beings doing without fossil energies by 2050-2100.

Coal being by far the worst polluter the international community should in a first step agree on a halt of new coal-fired power plants and a phasing out existing ones by 2050.

To that end, the December 2015 Paris climate conference should agree to:

  • prohibit the construction of coal-fired power plants that are not equipped with CCS as of 2020;
  • withdraw annually at least 5% of non -CCS coal-fired power plant capacity;.

The USA has started the process of replacing coal by shale gas which emits only half as much C02 as coal-fired power plants. Between 2012-16 it plans to retire 60 GW of the total capacity of 310 GW.

The EU is sending mixed signals.

On the one hand, major coal countries like Poland and Germany continue expanding lignite/coal fired power.

On the other ,UK is preparing to build a 450 MW demonstration plant that will capture 90% of its C02 emissions and store them in deep North Sea waters. UK aims to phase out its coal-fired power and become one of the world leaders in carbon capture and storage technology, a strategy for which it deserves praise.

Politically, it will be anything but easy to conclude an international agreement to stop commissioning new and phase out existing coal-fired power plants.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) should be the way to overcome the understandable resistance, in particular from emerging countries like India that have hardly contributed to global climate change so far.

It is therefore urgent to build demonstrations plants like the UK is doing.

In parallel, utilities should invest in power plants operating on shale gas, LNG, wind/solar and biogas as alternatives to lignite/coal.

The first step is for the EU to take: it must urgently freeze and start phasing out its lignite/coal-fired power capacity.

This would constitute a strong gesture to the international community.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 20/9/2014

Greece’s fiscal crisis and its impact on the public sector

Posted by on 28/09/14

Elina Zagou, Judicial, County Court Katerini, Greece
Fotis Zygoulis, Head of the Independent Planning and Design Department of the Municipality of Heraklion Attica, doctoral candidate at the University of Athens +302132000118, Greece
Email:  fotiszygoulis at gmail.com,  elinazagou at gmail.com

Greece in the year 2014 is now in the seventh year of recessionary economic cycle, which causes adverse effects on the social, economic and political spectrum. The crisis served as a catalyst for structural reforms, especially for countries like Greece, which signed agreements on international and European aid that posed as a prerequisite a number of radical changes concerning the organisation and functioning of public administration.
The current financial crisis exposed the weaknesses of the Greek political system regarding patron-client system. The dominance of the patronage system characterized during the previous years both the recruitment of public servants and the public administration’s attitude towards society and economy.
Greece’s economy in the last 40 years was based on excessive consumption, external and internal public borrowing. While European funding had been channeled primarily to consumption, without taking into account the needed investments, the country’s economic development and infrastructure, the improvement of good governance, the state was overloaded with an army of public servants. An unequal distribution of public administration’s structures emerged which resulted in a wastage of public expenditure, loans increasement, a huge debt and a gradually reduced efficiency of the public sector.
The peculiarity of the Greek public sector is the large size and exorbitant public expenditure on wages, but also the low efficiency along with extremely low quality services to citizens. However, the efforts of Greece since the end of 1990 to introduce the Economic Monetary Union reflected in quantitative restrictions on employment policy in public administration. Recruitment had been diminished, and in many cases the replacement of the outgoing staff was limited to one to three or one to five (although these measures were not applied across the whole public sector, applied unevenly and in some cases gradually abandoned).
Since 2009, due to the Fiscal Memorandum with Troika, there was applied a strict replacement staff rule in the public, (one to five). The Medium Term Financial Strategy Government Program extended this rule for the years 2012-2015 and “strengthened” in one to ten in 2011.
In the recent years an attempt was made to adapt to the Troika. So there has been a beginning of a series of serious reforms leaded by the Ministry of Administrative Reform, in order to evaluate both the structure and staff of the Public Service in order to remove structures that have nothing to offer to society or coexisting with other sharing the same powers and lastly to evaluate the public administration’s personnel . Also in the framework of the Memorandum with Troika, traditional public structures have been abolished under the ‘mobility’ project in order to fill positions of government, which were in an emergency state.
The economic and administrative restructuring project in Greece involves the following steps:
Reduction of the operating costs of central government by 200 million
Reduction of public investment program by 400 million euros.
Introduction of the rule 1:10 concerning the recruitment in public interest’s enterprises
Reduction of staff salaries in the public sector by 22 per cent
Reduction of 150,000 civil servants
But the crisis has worsened the economic situation of civil servants with the upcoming reduction of the average wage and the number of salaried personnel by the state budget. The simultaneous reduction of the amount of earnings made unattractive the public sector to the existing personnel. The moreover wider obsolescence of human resources, inevitably led to a drop in morale and a reduction of the employee productivity, while it is often associated with increased incidences of corruption.
The unemployment rate in Greece and in the EU (2000–2012)

European Union (27 countries) Greece


Source: [Eurostat, „Unemployment statistics‟,

The proposals which have been implemented during the last six years concern: Management by objectives – Suspension and recruitment limitation – Meritocracy in the selection and promotion – Motivation Productivity – Enhancing mobility – Simplified pay system – single payroll – Redesign education systems for public officials.
Greek financial crisis is a window of opportunity to promote reforms. The decrease of the average wage and the number of salaried by the state budget is the main priority in the period of last three years. Cutting salaries (average more than 35percent), while the number of salaried by the state budget has been reduced by 9.9% (76,408 persons) in relation to 2010 has leaded to a massive exodus of Greek public servants to retirement.
The reduction of the number of civil servants in Greece was not accompanied by radical changes related to the modernization of HR management. The lack of goal setting, performance measurement indicators and the continued patronage of the State with regard to the appointment of heads of organisational units in Greek government has canceled the practice of this kind of numerical and quantitative limitations operations and has not contributed to an improvement of the quality of services offered by Greek civil servants.
The effects of reduction of the salaries of civil servants in the Greek economy Greek economy has been described in the OECD report entitled: Fairly Sharing the Social Impact of the Crisis in Greece 2014 which clearly shows that the salaries of civil servants by 2010 were incomparably higher than those of their colleagues in the private sector contributing thereby to great inequality among workers. However the salaries of civil servants channeled mostly to private consumption. For this reason, the reduction of the salaries of civil servants affected both the corresponding reduction in private sector wages and general economic cycle.
The ongoing crisis has dramatically affected all structural deficits that characterize the Greek public administration. The decision-making system, structures for implementation and monitoring of public policies which, because of their systemic nature, may be considered as “standing weaknesses” of the entire framework for the organization and the functioning of public administration. Problems such as poor utilization and misallocation of human resources, the absence of modern methods, techniques and tools administration and lack of the public sector coordination led to the current disease situation of the state.
The problem of the Greek Public Sector neither is determined nor is based only on the size which can be solved only through a reduction in staff or salaries of public employees. The hot task today is to upgrade the quality of services provided to citizens and businesses through a rationalization of structures. The administrative burden of the operation of the Greek public bureaucracy is seriously affecting the economic growth more than the reduction of salaries of Greek civil servants.
Fournier, J.-M. and I. Koske (2012), “Less Income Inequality and More Growth – Are they Compatible? Part 7. The Drivers of Labour Earnings Inequality – An Analysis Based on Conditional and Unconditional Quantile Regressions”, OECD Economics Department Working Papers, No. 930, Figure 11.

OECD (2012), Economic Policy Reforms 2012 – Going for growth, Greece-country note, February 2012.
OECD (2011), Greece: Review of the Central Administration, OECD Public Governance Reviews, OECD Publishing,
OECD, (2012a) Public Sector Compensation in times of austerity, OECD Publishing, Paris
OECD (2012c), Greece: Review of the Central Administration (Greek version): OECD Public Governance Reviews, OECD Publishing, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264179158-…
OECD, 2012d, Developing Human Resource Management Strategies to Support Strategic Agility in the Public Sector
Ministry of Administrative Reform and E-Governance: National Strategy for Public Administration Reform 2014-2016
Unofficial Translation of the OECD report on the Greek Central Administration (2011) from the National Alumni Association of Schools of Public Administration and Local Government
Effects of restrictive policies on public services Athens 2013 Social Multicenter ADEDI
“Local Government: Economic Status of Municipalities, The Impact on human resources of the Municipalities’ Social Multicenter ADEDI 2014
“A new strategy for the management of human resources in public administration” P. KATSIMARDOU Buas INERP 2012
“Crisis and Reforms in public administration” Anthi Karagiannis, 2012 European Centre of Excellence, Jean Monnet Program
Karkatsoulis P. (2012) Administrative reform is necessary and feasible!, Paper presented at a panel discussion organized by ELIAMEP, Kantor and the Citizens’ Movement and Transparency International, Athens, April 3rd, 2012