Greece: Pushing the anti-corruption and open government agenda

26 February 2015, by Antonis Schwarz and Panagiotis Vlachos.

With the outcome of the Greek general election on 25 January, in which the radical left party SYRIZA gained just short of an outright majority, the world’s focus has been on how this will affect the Greek and European economies.

Yet, for the vast majority of Greek citizens, continued reform of state institutions to rid them of corruption and increased meaningful participation in public decision-making are also high on the agenda.

While Greece has joined many anti-corruption instruments – the UNCAC, the GRECO, the OGP, and an EU anti-corruption taskforce to deal with corruption in public administration – it continues to fall far down the ladder in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, and does not appear to be fully enforcing the implementation of its anti-corruption commitments, such as its UNCAC obligation to address bribery of public officials.

Nevertheless, new technology and innovation in both the Greek public administration and civil society are providing a ray of hope for anti-corruption and open government measures.

The public administration has introduced the digital platform “Diavgeia” (meaning “clarity” in Greek), on which all laws and public decisions are published before they enter into force, including public contracts – thus fulfilling the transparency requirements of a number of UNCAC articles (Article 9 and Article 10). Likewise, the initiative allows citizens and other stakeholders to deliberate on draft laws and ensure public consultation (partially fulfilling UNCAC Article 13).

Civil society has also become more daring in the fight against corruption and expanded the scope of digital democracy into more areas of government life. Vouliwatch (Vouli means “parliament” in Greek) is giving Greek citizens the opportunity to ask questions publicly to MPs and MEPs and is monitoring their voting behaviour. It is also using crowd-sourcing techniques with the public to produce ideas for legislation.[1]

In particular, Vouliwatch has introduced Policy Monitor, a tool that summarises the positions of political parties on important topics, and allows citizens to compare and crowd source the agendas with just a few clicks. It also organises “political labs”, where citizens and MPs debate current policy issues. With its strong relationships within the NGO community and open data movement, Vouliwatch is putting the government’s implementation of UNCAC Article 19 to the test by facilitating public access to parliamentarians on a variety of issues, such as anti-corruption, environmental protection, social policies, welfare, homelessness, civic engagement and urban renewal.

With the ever-growing importance of the Internet, and by promoting a culture of engaged e-governance and access to public information, Vouliwatch aspires to push Greek governance structures towards greater participation and transparency, and to encourage similar efforts across Greece.

Vouliwatch was inspired by similar programmes in Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxemburg and Tunisia. These initiatives explicitly support the Declaration on Parliamentary Openness and are loosely organised into a network that promotes the exchange of best practice.

Due to the socio-economic turmoil in Greece many of these reforms have fallen under the public radar. However, while recognising that there are many more decisive and preventive measures needed to fight corruption in the public sector, it is important to emphasise the progress that has been made and ensure that this potential is built on in the future.

  1. Greek parliament currently does not publicise on the web the voting behaviour of MPs.