Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and Alex Soros
Greek prosecutors have started an investigation of an alleged slush fund managed by the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, supposedly used to fund lobbying and propaganda efforts in Albania, Macedonia and other Balkan countries in order to advance the interests of the Greek government.
The probe, reported by Ekathemirini, follows reports in the Greek media that the Greek government has secretly paid media outlets, journalists, non profit organizations, Easter Orthodox churches and other influencers in Macedonia and Albania, to achieve the government’s objectives in relations with the two countries, in particular Macedonia’s name change and a maritime demarcation agreement between Greece and Albania.
The Greek government has not denied the existence of the secret funds, and has criticized the media for disclosing state secrets.
The existence of the fund was first alleged publicly by the journalist Dimitris Takis of the iefimerida.gr who claimed that a fund endowed with €45 million has been used by the Ministry of Foreign affairs to secretly finance foreign lobbying and propaganda efforts.
Mr. Takis was leaked information of accusations exchanged between the the Defense Minister Panos Kamennos and the now resigned Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias during a parliamentary discussion over the Prespa Agreement between Greece and Macedonia for changing the latter’s name to Republic of Northern Macedonia. Kamennos opposes any name that keeps the word Macedonia in it, which was born by Greece’s famous northeastern region of Macedonia, and has continuously clashed with Mr. Kotzias who has been the principal Greek representative in the negotiations with Macedonia.
During the exchange, Mr. Kamennos allegedly accused Mr. Kotzias that he lobbied Macedonian politicians into accepting the agreement, using €1 million from a secret fund managed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He also accused Mr. Kotzias of abuses and corruption for personal benefit with the fund’s assets. Iefermeridia.org reported that Mr. Kamennos accused Mr. Kotzias of having also received €50 million from George Soros’ Open Society network to be distributed to organizations in the Balkans to leverage public and political support for the Prespa Agreement.
The Greek government has not denied the existence of the fund, but has threatened to sue Iefimerida.org for disclosing state secretes that endanger national interests and security of Greece.
The news has created serious concerns in neighboring Albania. Local media have reported that the same fund and Soros money were also used to influence Albanian politicians and society. Top Channel, one of country’s two major TV channels, referring to unspecified Greek sources reported that the Greek government has secretly paid Albanian media outlets, journalists, Greek minority associations and other civil society organizations to support a maritime border delimitation agreement which is being negotiated between the two countries.
Albania and Greece have been negotiating an agreement for more than two years, but discussions have been kept secret by both parties. Lack of transparency and speculation that the Albanian government is offering significant concessions to the Greek government in exchange for its support in Albania’s negotiations to join the EU have fueled concerns and heated political debates in Albania. The latest revelations of paid lobbying and Soros financing of such lobbying are sure to intensify the accusations against the Albanian government.
A previous agreement reached between the two governments was not ratified due to a decision of the Albania’s Constitutional Court voiding the agreement for violation of procedures set forth by the Constitution for negotiations of international agreements.