The European Commission expects Greek authorities to “thoroughly” examine allegations stemming from a spyware scandal, an EU official said Tuesday.
“Any attempt by national security services to illegally access data of citizens, including journalists and political opponents, if confirmed, is unacceptable,” Anitta Hipper, the European Commission’s spokeswoman on home affairs, said at the institution’s daily news briefing.
The remarks came after Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis admitted on Monday that the National Intelligence Service (EYP) wiretapped opposition leader and former EU lawmaker Nikos Androulakis.
According to the EU executive body, it is the responsibility of member states to control their national security services and to examine breaches of fundamental rights, including freedom of expression and data protection, Hipper explained.
“The European Commission expects the national authorities to thoroughly examine any of such allegations to restore citizens' trust,” she added.
EU lawmaker Sophie in’t Veld, who is the rapporteur of the European Parliament’s special PEGA committee probing the use of spyware by EU member states, also called for EU agencies to launch an investigation.
According to the Dutch politician, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office and Europol, the bloc’s law enforcement cooperation agency, should examine the Greek surveillance scandal.
In a tweet, she reminded that the EU institutions, the European Parliament and the European Commission were both affected by the spyware scandals in which “EU governments -- who are also members of the (third key EU institution) European Council -- were spying on citizens for political reasons.”
Greek journalist Thanasis Koukakis, who was also under surveillance, will appear in front of the EU Parliament’s PEGA committee later this month, while Androulakis is also expected to testify later.
In a televised address to the nation, Mitsotakis acknowledged that Androulakis, leader of the socialist PASOK party was wiretapped by the state's intelligence agency, but denied he knew about the surveillance.
“Although everything was done legally, the EYP underestimated the political dimension of this action. It was formally okay, but politically unacceptable,” Mitsotakis claimed.
The announcement followed the resignation of EYP head Andreas Kontoleon and the prime minister's general secretary Grigoris Dimitriadis on Friday.
The scandal erupted last week when Kontoleon told a parliamentary committee that his agency had been spying on journalist Thanasis Koukakis.
The parliamentary probe was launched after Androulakis complained to top prosecutors about an attempt to hack his cellphone with Israeli-made Predator tracking software.