As announced by the European Commissioner for Values and Transparency, Vera Yurova, at her meeting with Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the Maximos Mansion yesterday, the European Commission’s report on the Rule of Law in Greece will focus on the Predator wire tapping scandal.

Yurova also announced that a Commission legal opinion on the use of illegal spyware by both individuals and national authorities (as permitted by Greek law) is in the pipeline. This initiative comes in response to international criticism of the Commission’s reluctance to take action against illegal spyware like Pegasus and Predator, despite the scandals which its use has given rise to across Europe.

In Cooperation with the National Authorities

“We discussed the use of spyware last time, which is a concern for many Member States”, Yurova told the Prime Minister, pledging that “we will include the use of spyware in Member States in our report on the Rule of Law, so that you can get a better idea of how big the problem is,” and that “we will issue a legal opinion on the use of spyware by both public authorities and private actors.”

Turning to the opinion, the Vice-President of the Commission made it clear that she will be issuing it immediately, during her current term in office, and that it will take into account the case law of the European Court of Human Rights “so that we may fully clarify what legal conditions need to be met before wire tapping software may be used.”

As far as the drafting of the Commission’s report on the Rule of Law is concerned, however, Yurova did not steer clear of making a statement which will be of particular political interest in the wake of the reactions European criticism of the functioning of the Rule of Law in Greece has provoked. Yurova pointed out that the Commission’s report “is not a unilateral assessment by Brussels,” as it is not prepared by the Commission independently, but rather in cooperation with the national authorities and using the data they provide.

It will be recalled that the Greek government has stated on multiple occasions that this report, which it itself co-authors, is the only one whose findings it acknowledges. This year’s edition will be published in early July.

The 2023 report

It will be remembered that the cases of Predator wire tapping were also mentioned in the Commission’s 2023 report on the Rule of Law in Greece, and have since also been condemned by the Council of Europe and formed the subject of an independent investigation and recommendations by the PEGA Committee of Inquiry, the LIBE Committee, and the Plenary of the European Parliament.

Last year’s report emphasized the surveillance of journalists, following a report published by Media Freedom Rapid Response, an independent press freedom mechanism. It also noted that the legislation permitting those who were placed under National Intelligence Service (NIS) surveillance to be informed why (the 2022 law, which is still in force today) has come in for severe criticism from legal and academic circles for, among other things, restricting the ability of the competent independent Authority for Communication Privacy (ACP) to do its job.

Finally, the report noted that the Greek Parliament passed a law that prohibits the possession of spyware by individuals but not by the Greek State.