Admitting that his New Democracy Conservatives and their coalition partner the PASOK Socialists had packed the former public broadcaster ERT with political hires before abruptly shutting it down on June 11, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras nonetheless said the decision – taken by ministerial decree followed by ignoring a court order to restore the signal – was the right move.
Speaking to his party’s convention on June 28, a weary Samaras – who had to interrupt his speech at one point to take a seat briefly to rest – said that most of the political appointments at ERT in the past were made by PASOK , taking a shot at the party he has brought into an alliance, and appointing Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos as Deputy Prime Minister.
He said the decision to shut the TV and radio service down was the only way to deal with its “sinful” past. He didn’t mention charges by former workers there that he directed the hiring of at least high-paid no-show advisors or that one of his minister’s ordered a show with a 1 million euro budget be established for his daughter.
“You cannot make an omelet without breaking eggs,” he told some 4,000 delegates, adding a warning for ERT employees that continue to broadcast from its headquarters that “sit-ins” would not be tolerated. He did not mention the order from the Council of State, the country’s highest court, to restore the signal while the government sets up a replacement to be called NERIT, but with only 1000-1200 of the former staff of 2,656 were who fired without warning so that Greece could meet targets set by international lenders to reduce the public workforce.
With that crisis behind him, he got good news this week as well with the announcement that Azerbaijan had chosen the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) that would pass through Greece to deliver natural gas to central and western Europe, which could be a 1.5 billion euros ($1.95 billion) bonanza. The Azeris ruled out a competing pipeline called Nabucco West which would have bypassed Greece.
Samaras said the TAP deal proved that the “prophets of doom” were wrong. The prime minister said that gas provider DEPA, whose privatization was abandoned earlier this month, would also be sold soon. He didn’t mention that the government’s sale of a 33 percent stake in the gambling monopoly OPAP was on the verge of collapse because the winning bidder, the Greek-Czech consortium Emma Delta, wanted to renegotiate some of the terms.