Professor at the Department of Balkan, Slavic and Oriental Studies, and Dean of the School of Economics and Regional Studies, University of Macedonia (Thessaloniki, Greece)
Konstantinos Tsitselikis is Professor at the Department of Balkan, Slavic and Oriental Studies, and Dean of the School of Economics and Regional Studies, University of Macedonia (Thessaloniki, Greece). He lectures on human and minority rights, migration and refugee law. He has worked for the Council of Europe, the OSCE, the UN, the EU in human rights and democratisation field missions. Co-director of the Series of Studies of the Research Centre of Minority Groups at Vivliorama publishers (Athens). Author of a series of books, articles and studies on human rights, minorities, migration and refugee law. Special research interests: Immigrants and refugees in Greece/Europe, language and religion rights, minorities. For more click here.
Edited by Sanaa Alimia and Gianluca Parolin. Working Paper Series for the Governance Programme at the Aga Khan University, Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations, London. 2020.
"In Greece, with the summer season the fragile balance between economic development and protection of public health was revisited. The motto "health first" gave way to the prevalence of considerations of the negative impact of COVID-19 on the economy. This ensued in an irregular and contradictory set of measures. The inconsistent measures and announcements reflect the government’s tendency to politically capitalize the pandemic while showing feeble moves in terms of reinforcing the national health system, its infrastructure and capacity to ably respond to COVID-19 cases and public health needs in general."
[Since the report below was published on 10 April 2020, the situation in Greece has changed. Dr. Konstantinos Tsitselikis has kindly given us an update on the latest situation in Greece as of October 12 2020. For the original report see below and/or the "Download Questionnaire" option above.]
Submission Date: 10 April, 2020
Question #1: Current Measures
What are the current public health measures in place in response to the pandemic?
Image credite: Markus Winkler via Pexels.
In Greece there is a general rule that bans all kind of shops and restoration services, or sport clubs to the exception of super markets, small tobacco shops and pharmacies. People are not allowed to go outdoors to the exception of: visiting a physician or going to a pharmacy, visiting someone in need, for shopping for goods of immediate need [when delivery of goods at home is not possible], for personal sport training or accompanying a pet, going to a ceremony like weddings or funerals only as member of the family, for parents visiting a child while in separation. Last, people are allowed going to a bank, when e-services are not available. People can circulate only to vicinity of their domicile all the while keeping a safe distance to other people (2 meters). Gatherings in public are not allowed. Major public spaces of recreation are put under restrictions (open to the public for specific hours and for personal exercise, activities such as swimming are barred). All parks are closed and barred. In public administration, universities or banks, employees work in shifts, one staff per office. Policing is gradually expanded and a fine of 150 Euros is imposed to offenders.
The measures are passed through Acts in Force of Law (PNP) adopted by the government in case of emergency. They need to be ratified by the parliament within 30 days. Especially for the Easter holidays any mobility far from the place of residence is banned.
Question #2: Constitutional Setup
What is the body with jurisdiction over public health in the country according to its constitution?
The Ministry of Health is the core body of jurisdiction. The Ministries of National Defence and of Transportation have also lateral jurisdiction during the present crisis. Also in the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis the Agency of Political protection has been upgraded to a ministry in order to combat and coordinate the states agencies. Also the coordinator of the medical teams and spokesman of the assumes special jurisdictions. In fact, it seems that the Ministry of Health is not the main body that handles the pandemic crisis.
Question #3: Debate over Measures?
Has there been any debate over the measures taken?
Very little reaction has been observed. Mostly among legal scholars about the compliance of the limitations to constitutional and human rights law. The main objection deals with the lack of direct regulations by the Greek constitution to allow the government to adopt collective measures putting restrictions over the personal liberty. Individual measures are allowed, collective remain unregulated. One important issue deals with the applicability of the principles of necessity and proportionality as regards the imposed restrictions.
There is limited debate in independent media with regards to other collateral measures being passed through Acts in the Force of Law with regards to labour relations and labour rights which are criticized for not being proportional, bringing structural changes to the labour market to the detriment of worker’ rights.
“Among legal scholars and activists there is growing concern on the arbitrary implementation of measures, flexing and extending powers provided by with decrees with force of law.”
In social media the methods used to justify the increasing restrictions for physical presence in public spaces is criticized mainly due to the range of fake videos disseminated in mainstream media showing crowding in public spaces which were edited to show more people in the space than there actually were.
Among legal scholars and activists there is growing concern on the arbitrary implementation of measures, flexing and extending powers provided by with decrees with force of law. For instance, while response to the homelessness issue has been limited, in several cities of Greece homeless were penalized (150 EUR) for aimlessly roaming outdoors. Local authorities have been provided to mandate to respond to the needs of the homeless and to ensure public health safety. Accordingly, several hotels were opened for the homeless to be hosted but no mass testing of homeless has been foreseen, nor is it clear whether the capacity to host all the homeless in housing that can ensure self-isolation is made available in the large cities with homelessness issues.
Question #4: Conflicting Claims over Jurisdiction?
Has the pandemic generated any conflicting claims over jurisdiction on matters of public health?
There are overlapping jurisdictions between the government, the regional bodies of local governance, as well as the municipalities. There are also overlapping jurisdictions between a series of ministries. However, there are no conflicting claims among the government and local authority bodies. It can be explained that all, or most of them, are closely aligned with policies adopted by the prime minister K. Mitsotakis.
Question #5: Overall Governance Debate
Has the pandemic generated a discussion over other governance arrangements in the country?
The main arguments challenge the efficiency and pertinent scope some of the measures. There is a growing discussion about the role of mainstream media that overwhelmingly support the government measures. There is very little critique coming to the front of the public discussion.
“Overcrowding in refugee camps is a major challenge…”
Overcrowding in refugee camps is a major challenge. Overcrowded camps in the islands and the mainland where refugees are transferred constitute a threat to individual and public health. Cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in two refugee camps on the mainland. No specific measures to test and decongestion have been announced to date.
A major issue of discussion regards the strengthening of the Public Health System. The government has hired doctors and nurses only under a temporary basis, and none of these would remain after the pandemic. Moreover, no structural measures have been taken in order to prepare the public hospitals and first level Health Centers to confront future health crises.
“…the government suppresses individual liberties… but does not provide any special measures to strengthen equality and solidarity.”
The general criticism through a legal point of view, is that the government suppresses individual liberties, eventually for a legal purpose, but does not provide any special measures to strengthen equality and solidarity. To provide social help to all those who are not in position to help themselves while staying alone at home. Those who are already ill persons or very poor.
Question #6 Further Comments
New phenomena have been observed, such as ‘volunteer citizens’ mandated by the local authorities checking and controlling citizens outdoors in some areas.
We welcome submissions on how COVID-19 is being managed in different parts of the world.
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The Governance Programme critically assesses current thinking on governance in relation to Muslim contexts. It aims to address the deeply rooted religious and cultural sensitivities prevalent in matters of governance by exploring their impact on the way reforms are received and the way in which institutions are perceived and managed. While focused on Muslim contexts, the programme adopts a comparative approach as the majority of Muslims face the same challenges as other communities in the developing world. Key goals of the programme are to improve the quality of life by promoting the public good in the developing world. By generating key information in accessible, multi-lingual formats, the programme is committed to encouraging healthy and informed debate among scholars and the public alike
Aga Khan University’s Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations is a higher education institution focusing on research, publications, graduate studies, and outreach.AKU-ISMC strives to become an academic leader that provides the highest quality of research and teaching; engaging locally and internationally on questions and debates regarding historic and contemporary affairs of Muslim cultures and societies.