Despite Mounting Criticism, Greece’s Prime Minister Defends Record On Rule Of Law

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola, left, makes statements with Greece's Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis after their meeting at Maximos Mansion in Athens, Greece, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. Metsola is in Athens on Tuesday, as part of her campaign to raise awareness and encourage people to vote in the European Parliament elections in June. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
European Parliament President Roberta Metsola, left, makes statements with Greece's Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis after their meeting at Maximos Mansion in Athens, Greece, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. Metsola is in Athens on Tuesday, as part of her campaign to raise awareness and encourage people to vote in the European Parliament elections in June. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
View All (6)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece’s prime minister insisted Tuesday that the rule of law in the country was “stronger than ever,” despite mounting criticism from press freedom and human rights groups.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis blamed political opponents for the criticism of his center-right government and argued that the “country was at the center of a slander (campaign).”

He hosted Roberta Metsola, the European Parliament president, who is touring European Union capitals ahead of elections to the EU's legislative branch in June.

Earlier this month, 17 human rights and press freedom organizations including Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists, wrote to the European Commission to voice concerns about Greece. Their letter cited multiple accounts and allegations that the government has targeted or failed to protect journalists, activists and human rights campaigners from attacks using spyware, coercive law suits, and obstructive regulations.

Similar complaints were made in a resolution approved by the European Parliament on Feb. 7.

Mitsotakis maintained that domestic opponents of his government were tarnishing Greece's reputation in order to attack him.

“It seems a little odd that certain forces in our country, which once used the most anti-European, populist slogans, suddenly present themselves as the defenders of justice and democratic values and justice,” he said, in an apparent reference to Greece's left-wing opposition.

He cited Greece’s recent adoption of same-sex marriage legislation and plans to introduce a postal vote as evidence of the country’s improving record.

Rule of law issues are receiving additional attention in EU member states ahead of the June elections, as established political parties fight off challenges from populist rivals across the bloc.

Metsola said her tour was designed to boost public confidence in EU institutions as well as voter participation – noting that rule-of-law issues formed a foundation of public trust.

“We want to discuss these issues honestly, and we need to be careful not to politicize or weaponize important discussions on the rule of law,” she said.

Metsola later spoke at the Greek parliament and was due to hold a town hall meeting with young people to discuss the June elections.

___

Theodora Tongas in Athens, Greece contributed.

___

Follow AP’s coverage of democracy at: https://apnews.com/hub/democracy