Greek party leaders hold emergency talks on future of state broadcaster
The leaders of Greece’s three-party coalition government are holding emergency talks today (17 June) aimed at defusing the political crisis that has arisen since the closure of the country’s public broadcaster, ERT.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s decision to close ERT has been strongly criticised by his coalition partners, the Socialists (Pasok) and the Democratic Left. Tensions increased after Samaras gave a speech at the weekend in which he defended the decision and called ERT’s spending “sinful”. He said that shutting down the broadcaster was evidence that he was cracking down on the privileged.
“Some believe that they will trap us in an election dilemma,” Samaras said in a speech to members of his centre-right New Democracy Party. “The dilemma is not over who will provoke elections, because nobody wants them. The dilemma is who will be responsible for blocking reforms.”
Pasok criticised the speech, saying in a statement that the coalition “can only operate on the basis of mutual respect”.
Last week, 50 European public service broadcasters in 39 countries signed an open letter drafted by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) calling for ERT to be put back on air immediately.
“This undemocratic and unprofessional action of the Greek government undermines the existence of public service media in Greece and its independence from the government,” the EBU members wrote.
The European Commission has attempted to remain neutral on the issue. Olli Rehn, the European commissioner for economic and monetary affairs and the euro, told MEPs last week that the closure was not demanded by Greece’s international creditors – the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the Commission. But he added that the Commission respected the Greek government’s prerogative to make national decisions for itself.
Androulla Vassiliou, the European commissioner for culture, asked in a tweet last week: “How can democracy function without a public TV and Radio?”
“I also wonder how our cultural diversity will be promoted without a public TV and Radio…” she added.