Democracy & Justice


Civicus Monitor

by LibertiesEU



On 21st May 2023, the first round of parliamentary elections took place in Greece. Under the proportional representation system, the leading candidate would need to secure close to 50 percent of the vote (or 151 seats) to form a government by themselves. If no party manages to win outright, and no coalition deal can be made, a second round is called for.

The governing conservative party, Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s New Democracy, won the most votes in the first round, with a double-digit advantage over their biggest opposition, the leftist SYRIZA. This result surprised many experts, as the incumbent emerged strengthened in spite of the crises that marked their term, such as the highly publicised 2022 wiretapping scandal, a deadly train crash in February 2023 that triggered public outrage, as well as the social and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and cost of living crisis.

The day after the election, SYRIZA’s leader Alexis Tsipras announced the party would reassess and make changes in its strategy ahead of the second round, due on 25th June 2023.


On 8th June 2023, 21 member states of the European Union agreed on a deal to overhaul the bloc’s asylum system, replacing the one put in place by the Dublin Regulation. The key pillars of the so-called “asylum and migration management regulation” or AMMR are the introduction of an “expedited border procedure” for those deemed unlikely to receive asylum and a “solidarity mechanism” where a minimum number of people (currently set at 30,000) will be relocated from front-line states to those less “exposed to such arrivals” each year. Member states reluctant to accept refugees and irregular migrants could assist their counterparts hosting these groups by providing equipment, manpower or financial support, at roughly EUR 20,000 (USD 21,500) per person. Greece, alongside Italy and Malta, had initially blocked the deal, demanding that relocation of migrants from front-line countries be deemed mandatory. However, after 12 hours of negotiations, Greece also voted in favour of the new policy.

Human Rights Watch has stated that this new system will “increase suffering at borders” and “pave the way for further abuse” by introducing “expedited procedures without sufficient safeguards, increased use of detention, and unsafe returns.”



On 27th April 2023, members of the extreme right-wing party “Golden Dawn” broke into an exhibition by Sergej Andreevski, a North Macedonian artist, and verbally attacked him. In a video posted to their YouTube channel, they accused the artist of “celebrating past massacres of Greeks”, claiming he has no right to be in “a Greek public space”. As shown on the footage, one of the masked men can be heard telling the artist “You can be either a Slav or a Greek. There are no supposed non-Greek Macedonians.”

The exhibition was held in the gallery of the Thessaloniki municipality of Kalamaria. According to reports, about 15 masked Golden Dawn members entered the venue, took down some of the artist’s paintings, left flyers with slogans and attempted to “seal” the gallery with tape before leaving. The Security Department of the municipality of Kalamaria is investigating the case. Dimitris Christopoulos, professor of political science at Panteion University, told BIRN that as long as the Greek political elites “do not mess with” the extreme right, these kinds of incidents will persist.

In June 2018, Greece and North Macedonia entered into a landmark treaty called the "Prespa" agreement to resolve the long-standing Macedonia naming dispute, with the former Republic of Macedonia agreeing to alter its name in exchange for Greece abandoning its veto on the other country's integration into Euro-Atlantic organisations.


The European Parliament’s spyware inquiry committee adopted its final report and recommendations on 9th May 2023. The committee found that the use of Pegasus and similar surveillance software has breached fundamental human rights and threatened democracy in multiple EU countries, including Greece.

Regarding Greece, the report established that spyware “does not seem to be part of an integral authoritarian strategy, but rather a tool used on an ad hoc basis for political and financial gains”. While Greece has “a fairly robust legal framework in principle”, the MEPs noted that safeguards against abuse have been weakened through legislative amendments. The report goes on to state that surveillance software “has been used against journalists, politicians and businesspersons” in the country, as well as “exported to countries with poor human rights records”.


On 3rd May 2023, journalists’ associations across the Balkans used World Press Freedom Day to demand a safer working environment and stronger government response to the ongoing threats made against them.

In the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) World Press Freedom Index report published the same day, Greece came in at 107th place in the 2023 rankings, making it the worst EU country in terms of media freedom for the second year in a row. The year before, it ranked in 108th place.

In summary, the report stated that “press freedom in Greece suffered severe setbacks between 2021 and 2023, including with a wiretapping scandal that revealed the National Intelligence Service (EYP) was spying on several journalists. Furthermore, SLAPPs (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) are commonplace, and, even more troubling, the murder of veteran crime reporter Giorgos Karaïvaz in 2021 has not yet been solved.”

While the new Index scores show differences between EU countries have reduced significantly overall, stagnating Greece has been left behind. The report cites the spyware scandal as the primary reason for this, describing it as the “(...) biggest press freedom violation in the European Union in 2022, and the most serious attempt on press freedom in an EU member state.



On 16th May 2023, Greece’s Supreme Court heard an appeal by the prosecution that may lead to the reopening of the misdemeanor case against refugee aid workers Sarah Mardini and Seán Binder. As reported by the CIVICUS Monitor in the previous Greece update, the charges against Mardini and Binder include espionage and forgery, and could lead to a prison sentence of up to eight years. In a separate case, the two humanitarians have been under investigation since 2018 for unfounded felony charges - smuggling and money laundering among others - carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

In late May 2023, Greek media reported that prominent human rights defender Panayote Dimitras, co-founder of the Greek Helsinki Monitor, was under investigation by the Anti-Money Laundering Authority for misappropriating EU funds, and that his assets had been frozen pending further inquiry by the prosecutor’s office. While the reports, first published by the government-controlled Athens News Agency, contained information seemingly leaked from the investigation, Dimitras himself claimed that he had not been officially contacted by the Authority. Human Rights Watch has issued a statement denouncing this smear campaign against Dimitras, and calling on the European Commission to step in and dispel the allegations.


On 2nd May 2023, the Supreme Court ruled to ban the far-right Ellines (Greeks) party from participating in the general elections on the grounds that its de facto leader, Ilias Kasidiaris, who was a prominent member of the disbanded ultranationalist neo-Nazi organisation Golden Dawn, has received a prison sentence.

As previously reported by the Monitor, the Greek Parliament passed legislation in February 2023 blocking parties whose leaders have been sentenced to prison for crimes against the state from taking part in elections. In an attempt to bypass this, Kasidiaris stepped down as the party’s leader in April 2023, with a retired Supreme Court prosecutor taking up the role in his stead. On 11th April, the Parliament responded by passing urgent amendments to expand the ban, and requesting that the Supreme Court hold a full plenary session to consider the issue.

In its ruling, the Court upheld the Parliament’s amendments with a 9-1 majority, with one dissenting judge claiming the ban to be unconstitutional. According to media reports, the court noted that “Ilias Kasidiaris has been sentenced to many years in prison (13 years) for the crime of criminal organisation, as a political member of Golden Dawn, and therefore he is prohibited from participating in the electoral process, even if his conviction is in the first instance and not final”.

Following this, Kasidiaris announced from prison that he intends to run in the second round of the elections as an independent candidate, in coalition with other “independent” candidates, using a loophole in the law. However, on 9th June 2023, the Supreme Court ruled that option out, deciding that the so-called “Coalition of Independent Candidates - Greeks” was a party formation under Kasidiaris’s leadership, barring him from the race once again.



On 15th June 2023, people all over Greece took to the streets over the sinking of a boat carrying migrants and refugees that left at least 78 people dead. The shipwreck is said to be one of the worst in Mediterranean history, and questions have been raised about the Greek authorities’ role in the disaster. Thousands of protesters came out to show their disagreement with the country’s anti-immigrant government, as well as the EU’s migration policy, with banners reading “the government and the European Union kill” and “No to Fortress Europe, solidarity with refugees”. More than 20 people were arrested following clashes with police towards the end of the protest, including two minors. According to local media reports, the protesters' charges include possession of incendiary materials, disturbing the peace, attempted bodily harm, and violations of the law on weapons and flares.

Two days earlier, hundreds went missing at sea as the vessel they were on sank some 47 nautical miles off the Peloponnesian coast. Greek authorities have been criticised for not acting quickly enough, as the refugee ship was reported to have been in distress since the morning of 13th June, but a search and rescue operation by the Hellenic Coast Guard was only launched after the boat capsized the next day. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) relayed these findings in a statement published on 17th June 2023, reminding that “the duty to rescue people in distress at sea without delay is a fundamental rule of international maritime law”.

Evidence suggests that Greece is pushing back migrants as a matter of policy. On 22nd May 2023, the European Union made a formal request to Greece for an investigation into footage published by the New York Times, showing authorities placing 12 people, including children, on an inflatable raft and putting them out to sea. Earlier in May, in the run-up to the elections, Greek PM Mitsotakis defended his government’s migration policy as “tough but fair”.



On 11th May 2023, ILGA-Europe published its annual Rainbow Europe Map and Index, ranking the legal and policy situation of LGBTQI+ people in 49 European countries. The ranking is based on achieved scores in seven categories: equality and non-discrimination; family; hate crime and hate speech; legal gender recognition; intersex bodily integrity; civil society space; and asylum.

This year, the report found that bans on intersex genital mutilation (IGM) are bringing countries up in the ranking. That’s the case with Greece, which has moved up four places with its ban on IGM. Greece also received full marks in the “civil society space” category, with its country report noting that there has been no state obstruction of public events or the work of LGBTQI+ associations for the past three years and that LGBTQI+ human rights defenders are not at risk.

The report made several recommendations for improvement, such as:

  • To legalise marriage equality and introduce gender recognition based on self-determination accessible to non-binary individuals.
  • To include sexual orientation, sex characteristics, gender identity and gender expression in anti-discrimination legislation and policies on health, education and asylum.

See the original article on Civicus Monitor.

Donate to liberties

Your contribution matters

As a watchdog organisation, Liberties reminds politicians that respect for human rights is non-negotiable. We're determined to keep championing your civil liberties, will you stand with us? Every donation, big or small, counts.

We’re grateful to all our supporters

Your contributions help us in the following ways

► Liberties remains independent
► It provides a stable income, enabling us to plan long-term
► We decide our mission, so we can focus on the causes that matter
► It makes us stronger and more impactful

Your contribution matters

As a watchdog organisation, Liberties reminds politicians that respect for human rights is non-negotiable. We're determined to keep championing your civil liberties, will you stand with us? Every donation, big or small, counts.

Subscribe to stay in

the loop

Why should I?

You will get the latest reports before anyone else!

You can follow what we are doing for your rights!

You will know about our achivements!

Show me a sample!