Brussels (Brussels Morning) Follow the money…
Czech MEP Jan Zahradil (ODS) is facing a formal investigation for failing to disclose financial support from the Chinese Mission to the EU, according to the Dutch magazine Follow the Money. Incidentally, Zahradril chaired the EU-China Friendship Group. Investigations are currently ongoing and confidential.
Ankara (Brussels Morning) Male protocol
It is unclear whether the “Roman chairs” game on who sits next to President Erdogan of Turkey was a matter of stupidity or intent. Regardless, it conveyed a message as the EU’s most senior dignitary who happened to be a female was left without a chair when Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and Counsel president Charles Michel visited Turkey’s leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. As von der Leyen was left aside to sit on the sofa with an audible “erm” the two men sit side by side at the front of the room seemingly unaware.
The footage was shot ahead of a meeting in which the von der Leyen was to raise the issue of Turkey’s withdrawal from a convention on gender-based violence. Turkish officials have since argued that the meeting between the EU and Turkish protocol teams had made all the seating arrangements. Perhaps the heads of protocol were male.
Paris (Brussels Morning) Age of consent…
France moved to set the age of consent to 15 this week, which is still high compared to Italy’s threshold of 14 but lower than the UK’s rule of 16 year’ old and in Poland where the age of consent is 17 years of age. Until now, French law prohibited sex between an adult and a minor under the age of 15 but it was not automatically considered rape without “violence, coercion or threats”.
Retrospectively applied, Macron and wife Brigitte’s relationship would probably stand up to scrutiny, he a 15-year-old student when he met the 40-year-old schoolteacher in Amiens in 1993.
Berlin (Brussels Morning) Masking Corruption
The COVID-19 pandemic has been followed by a corruption crisis, with allegations of muddy contracting all around Europe. In Germany, the scandal coincides with elections, which is never a good thing.
Germans go to the polls in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate in closely watched state elections with federal legislative elections looming in September 2021. Overhanging corruption allegations could hurt CDU in the polls. Two Bundestag members – Nikolas Löbel (CDU) and Georg Nüsslein (CSU) – since resigned, are accused of receiving six-figure kickbacks to recommend specific mask manufacturers.
Dublin (Brussels Morning) God does not guarantee health and safety
Unlike Easter 2020, Christians were able to pray at their chosen house of worship in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But that was not the case in the Republic of Ireland, where church doors remained closed under threat of criminal prosecution. With limited exceptions for funerals and weddings, public faith events have been flatly banned in Ireland.
Madrid (Brussels Morning) Six years investigation, 20 years of corruption, five prosecuted
Spain’s biggest corruption scandal since the transition to democracy in 1974 is an ongoing saga with
the Spanish Popular Party’s former treasurer, Luis Bárcenas, continuing to cooperate with prosecutors. Without documentation, however, the investigation is six years and counting with only five high-ranking EPP officials being charged in what amounts to a kickbacks-for-contracts scheme that run from the 1980s to the 2000s.
The former conservative treasurer is pointing the finger to former PP Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, suggesting he personally received cash. Apparently, money was also used for renovation work at the PP’s headquarters in Madrid.
Luxembourg City (Brussels Morning) Out of this world
While the rest of Europe is waking up to the scare of a third pandemic, a group of people is petitioning the government of Luxembourg to release files of unexplained aircraft sightings that may evidence life on another planet. The proposal was one of 15 petitions that were approved for circulation on Friday, 19 March. Should any of the petitions pass the 4,500 signature-threshold they must be debated in parliament. In December, the US Congress forced the CIA to release the so-called UFO sighting files, which it did in January 2021. One can see a sequel to the X Files brewing — Millennial Files perhaps?
Rome (Brussels Moring) Slipping up
A court acquitted Matteo Salvini on Monday 22 March for a 2016 remark about the judiciary, which he called “a cancer to be rooted out” and “garbage”. Ignoring the prosecutors’ request for a 3,000 euro fine, the judge said this was a “slight matter”. It is unclear whether this was a self-reflective reference on the judiciary or a recognition that Salvini has made more serious assaults on rule of law in the past.
Budapest (Brussels Morning) Old boys club
Judging is a specialised job best kept among old friends. The country’s top EU Court nominee is Zoltán Csehi, chosen by Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga. Csehi had been a lawyer in the law firm of Varga’s predecessor. Of course, for such a responsible job one must come highly recommended.
Berlin (Brussels Morning) All gravy, baby
German corruption is the equivalent to “man bites dog” as European stereotypes go. Well, perhaps not. Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has been ruling for 16 years and signs of “institutionalism” are beginning to show. The urgency of securing masks has been a “gravy train” for the distribution of money without too many questions asked, or so people thought.
In late February, authorities informed the Bundestag that MP Georg Nüßlein, deputy leader of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, was under investigation for possible corruption. He was linked to a suspicious 660,000 euro transaction, thought to be a commission by a manufacturer for a lucrative surgical masks contract. Nikolas Löbel, Mannheim MP, acknowledged he received 250,000 euros for helping to arrange a government contract for masks for a company in his home state. Then comes an investigation against Alfred Sauter, a former Bavarian justice minister, in connection with – yes, you guessed it – a deal for masks. Last, but not least, Health Minister Jens Spahn is invited to explain why there were mask transactions with the magazine publisher where his husband works as a lobbyist.
The scandals are costing the CDU, six months before Germans go to the polls. Support for the conservatives has fallen from 36% in February to 29% in March.
Paris (Brussels Morning) Sarkozy in hot water, again
French elections have certain recurring storylines that come back in fashion every five years. In the next episode of “who is going to save the Republic from Le Pen” there is yet another scandal. Le Canard Enchainé reported this week that Sarkozy paid his wife as a parliamentary assistant in 2002, echoing the “Penelope Gate” scandal of 2017. As scandals go, this is the least of Sarkozy’s problems who was also in hot water for receiving donations from Libyan leader Muamar Qadhafi before championing the intervention to Libya in 2012.
Las Palmas (Brussels Morning) Health tourists
Come to Spain and we’ll pay your hospital bills. In a desperate attempt to resuscitate the clinically dead tourist industry, the Canary Islands are promising free health insurance for visiting tourists. That may be quite relevant to post-Brexit British tourists. However, the health insurance subsidy paid by the local government only covers tourists staying in licenced hotels or regulated accommodation, not second homes, family or friends.
Bratislava (Brussels Morning) Gender what?
Politics for women often goes on without women in Slovakia, which refused to ratify the Istanbul Convention against domestic violence, despite the best efforts of President Zuzana Caputova. On 25 February, the Slovak parliament rejected ratification of the treaty.
Four days later, Slovaks went to the polls to elect a parliament in which less than one in five MPs are women; the newly formed government has 15 ministers of which only three are women. Only Hungary and Greece fare worse in terms of female participation in politics.
Amsterdam (Brussels Morning) The more things change, they stay the same
Dutch dads are all about burden-sharing but not for the long run. According to a study by three universities – Utrecht, Amsterdam, Radboud – Dutch dads are taking on fewer domestic chores and care duties as lockdown continues. Meanwhile, women are more likely to take frontline jobs outside the home, such as in health and education. It appears that when the stress kicks in, parents working from home revert to traditional role patterns.
Malta City (Brussels Morning) Migrant rights
A Council of Europe report notes Malta illegally detains the great majority of migrants in the country, who are held in severely overcrowded facilities under extremely poor conditions, with restricted contact with the outside world. Young children and unaccompanied/separated minors are detained together with adult men against all agreed health and safety protocols.
Edinburgh (Brussels Morning) High drama
This would have been an explosive week in Edinburgh even without the arrest of a suspicious man with a bomb at Holyroodhouse, the Queens’ residence in the city. The police diffused the device and arrested a 39-year-old man in connection with the incident.
Few hours earlier, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon diffused a political bomb, as Scottish Conservatives clogged a motion for her resignation, following a parliamentary committee report that stated she had misled the Scottish Parliament over when she had first known about the allegations of sexual harassment against Alex Salmond. The motion was defeated by 65 votes to 31. The affair comes in an inopportune time as Scotland heads to the polls in May.
“Given that I have been cleared by that independent report of any breach, then my message to all those, especially to the Conservatives who refuse to accept Mr Hamilton’s conclusions, is this – if you think you can bully me out of office you are mistaken and misjudge me. If you want to remove me as First Minister, do it in an election”, said Sturgeon.
Dodoma (Brussels Morning) Where is my president?
Tanzanians are looking to Kenyan gossip social media platforms to find their leader. President John Magufuli (aka the Bulldozer) has not been seen in public since 27 February and, according to the Kenyan press, he was admitted to a private Nairobi Hospital. Nothing of the sort has been published in Tanzania.
Brussels (Brussels Morning) Using walls for opportunity, not division
Refuge for homeless migrant women Sister’s House in Brussels is looking to brighten up its premises in these quite frankly dismal times while empowering its residents. The centre, which opened in November 2018, is doing all it can on a shoestring to help provide for marginalised communities when we all need to stay safe and in shelter.
Brussels residents might remember Sister’s House had to relocate when its lease ran out last year. Volunteers are looking to harness the creativity of those at the new location through a participatory project using the walls as a canvas to visualise their identity.
Participants have already created illustrations of their desires and feeling, which organisers say boosts residents’ talents and self-confidence. Those designs need to now be transferred onto the walls of Sister’s House. The centre, which is completing the project with The City is Our Playground, needs 1,000 euros for materials to finish up. Dig deep bubblers, you can donate here.
Paris (Brussels Morning) Marine Le Pen is ‘soft’ on Islam?
Marine Le Pen is “soft” on Islam — so says Gérald Darmanin, French President Emmanuel Macron’s interior minister, in a TV debate on Thursday 11 February. The opponents sparred as France battles what it deems a ‘radical Islamism’ problem after a spate of attacks in the secular republic, triggering a controversial new bill and debate over secularism in the country. The accusation took Le Pen aback, as it would many others — the National Rally leader only recently invited a national hijab ban in public places and has been charged for inciting hate speech on social media.
Still, Darmanin is no snowflake, but the question is who won the intense back and forth? Observers say no-one did as both exhibited poor performance. Rightfully so.
Brussels (Brussels Morning) Stolen pleasures are the sweetest
Someone over at the UK Information Commissioner’s Office got a bit overzealous on festive treats, according to Insider. The outlet found more than 6,000 pounds was spent on luxury chocolate — Hotel Chocolat chocolates to be precise — using the corporate credit card.
The extravagant payment was bound to raise questions, it being the single largest payment made on the card in the last 10 months, setting itself apart by not being the usual expenditure of adverts, recruitment outlay and website costs.
The ICO is in the middle of investigating the massive sweet tooth in the team.
Brussels (Brussels Morning) EU institutions set up their own vaccination centres
First thing’s first. Brussel bubblers there will be vaccines on offer soon. The Commission has set in motion plans for EU office staff to get access to the inoculations via its own vaccination centre. All being well, it will be up and running by 22 February.
”We have staff in many countries”, explained Balazs Ujvari, a spokesperson, with the
Commission’s employees amounting to 33,000 between Brussels and Luxembourg. ”Here in Brussels we have 20,000, so in Belgium, we can make use of the Commission’s medical service to set up a vaccination campaign”.
The Commission still follows Belgian health authorities’ approach on vaccine strategy, even though it has doctors and healthcare professionals on staff for strategic advice through the pandemic.
”We have to bring the vaccination strategy in line with the authorities in Belgium”, affirmed Ujvari in the Commission press briefing on Thursday.
Some might say the EU is jumping the queue as inoculation has only just begun for care homes and not yet offered to key professional groups in the country.
Brussels (Brussels Morning) Notes from Brussels
“I didn’t realise I was making a life-long choice when I came to work here. I didn’t realise when I left him that I would not find any other man that I would be in love with that much that I wanted to have children with. That is probably something about getting to learn yourself and the experiences you make in life”.
Can you relate? If so, you’re not the only one as it’s a quote that inspired filmmaker and fellow Brussels bubbler to embark on the documentary Notes from Brussels. Nadine Van Loon narrates and directs the film following three women working behind the scenes of European politics: a young French political assistant in the European Parliament, a Polish trade journalist and a German top EU official who all moved to Brussels in their early careers passionate about contributing to the bloc. They all learned doing so did not come without its sacrifices. Do you feel them? If so, you can check out Loon’s crowd funder to help finish the project.
Brussels (Brussels Morning) Tension mount over Belgian lockdown
Spontaneous protests have erupted two Sundays in a row in Brussels, fuelled by discontent over lockdown measures prohibiting most small businesses from operating. Calls on social media channels have urged protesters to gather in the capital but police are cracking down on demonstrators who had not sought the necessary permission to protest in public.
“We are against the loss of autonomy”, said one anonymous source, holding up a sign in a Brussels street last Sunday.
Others complained the rules have killed off personal freedoms. Hairdressers and gyms have closed and masks must be worn outside with fines for those who fail to follow the new guidelines. A 10.00 pm curfew has also been set.
Some have accused police of bullying, with reports police have detained passers-by at the railway station two weekends ago.
“This time there were mostly orderly people protesting”, a source within the police said anonymously to Brussels Morning.” Mostly business owners who cannot work. But there were some young troublemakers, too”.
Brussels police turned up in riot gear to counter the few hundreds protesting while accused of using undue force. According to police, some 50, mostly young people, were detained to pre-empt potential violence and vandalism. The government has signalled that businesses could begin to open mid-February, but bars and restaurants would remain closed until at least early March.
Nicosia (Brussels Eye) The archbishop’s latest blunder beggar’s belief
Archbishop Chrysostomos made an impression — perhaps not the right one —when testifying in an inquiry into the citizenship by investment programme.
Recounting a conversation with the president, Chrysostomos relayed the following words as spoken in a conversation with the leader:
“President, you must understand there is no solution to the Cyprus issue. Turks want everything. Will you give it? … Any solution will collapse the next day. So, there is no solution, and you need to tell them clearly. President, you need to look at the economy, but we must all stop stealing, and I include myself. We must take care of our country’s economic issue”.
Social media and other folk took that as confirmation of the extent of corruption in the country. But that is of course not what the ordained minister meant — that he and the president were thieves — he later expressed on national television. He simply meant they should encourage people to stop stealing. We believe you cardinal.
London (Brussels Eye) EU nationals in Britain — couldn’t pay them to leave
The UK government is doing everything it can to get EU nationals living in Britain settled since it departed the bloc. So it says. A report on Tuesday 26 January in the Guardian contradicts that claim, inconveniently for Westminster, reporting that EU citizens have been added to a voluntary returns scheme with financial support of 2,000 pounds and flights.
While 2,000 pounds is of course enough to uproot your life and restart somewhere new, said no one, ever, it comes just months before the deadline of applying for settled status of 30 June and the whole debacle impacts the most vulnerable. So this is the serious part.
The EU homeless rights project at the Public Interest Law Centre said it was the institutional barriers to application and delays to decision-making within the government department responsible for settlement, namely the Home Office. Ah yes, that place where non-citizens go to get their sole ripped out.
Prague (Brussels Eye) Pirates for transparency — new campaign targeting multinatioanls
Big business better watch their silver. European Pirate Party chairman Mikuláš Peksa has launched a campaign for the Czech government and EU member states to support public country-by-country-reporting by voting for a transparent and effective instrument in the European Competitiveness Council (COMPET). The idea is multinational corporations be open to greater public oversight and the proposal will be one of the priorities for the new Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU. Fifteen out of the 27 EU countries representing at least 65% of the total EU population would need to vote in favour to pass.
For the Czech Republic, it could add around 380 million euros in taxes to the economy, according to Peksa’s calculations. No small booty, if true. The petition is geared to help persuade the Czech government to get behind this proposal, which is currently taking a neutral position.
Brussels (Brussels Morning) Belgian EU Commissioner asks Belgian government to justify its travel embargo
The saga surrounding Belgium’s border closures — announced for Wednesday, when exit and entry will be restricted to essential travel — took another turn Monday when the country’s EU Commissioner Didier Reynders asked Prime Minister Alexander De Croo to justify his decision.
De Croo has insisted on the ban to curb the spread of COVID-19 variants, despite the three-month lockdown, bar stores being allowed to open. As Commissioner in charge of justice, Didier Reynders demanded the Belgian government explain its breaches to EU’s border-free travel and freedom of movement.
For Belgium, an international hub with an expat population comprising 1.5 million foreigners as residents, the sudden ban on travel across borders will prove impractical.
As newly appointed Prime Minister, De Croo, has been keen on a hardline approach to crowd control, having introduced a 10.00 pm curfew. The travel ban will require official authorisation from employers of educational establishments to prove the necessity of cross-border movement.
London (Brussels Eye) Government says no to petition to ban Brexit festival
Brits and UK government ministers keen to celebrate fresh beginnings outside the EU have already seen resistance from taxpayers taking issue with the 2022 planned Festival of Brexit, estimated to cost 120 million pounds. Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross MP Jamie Stone launched a petition in December saying no taxpayer or charitable donations should fund the festival.
Stone and other proponents of the petition point out that the arts had suffered dearly as a result of the current pandemic as have other areas of the economy and people’s livelihoods, suggesting the money should be “redirected to a Covid-19 recovery fund”.
Fair point. Unfortunately, the government says it’s a really good use of taxpayer money and a chance to celebrate all that is British. Like queuing. I’ll patiently go and wait in line for the food bank now.
Brussels (Brussels Morning) Belgian PM urges EU-wide travel restrictions
Brussels may be the heart of European policy making but Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo is keen to keep much of the continent at bay, by proposing an EU-wide ban on non-essential travel yesterday.
Croo wants a “European solution” to the issues of travel and is particularly worried about the spring break in February when schools take leave and bored bloc-member compatriots start eyeing pastures cross-border.
The Belgian leader has already touched base with European Council president Charles Michel to sound out the idea.
“I want to be very clear about what we advocating: we are not asking to close borders”, said De Croo said. “Trade must be able to take place, border workers who work in another country must be able to do so, and we must ensure that the Schengen area continues to function”.
Travel restrictions are being discussed.
Looks like the EU will have to remain all work, no play for a while longer.
London(Brussels Morning) UK minister accidentally makes case for the EU
Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis MP was the butt of a hashtag Friday after BBC political show Question Time showed him making an excellent case against Brexit.
Explaining why the Northern Ireland protocol benefits gives it access to the UK and EU he said the country had a “unique competitive advantage in the world” because it can trade with the single market.
If memory isn’t failing the honourable gentleman he should remember the UK had that exact advantage before Brexit. Ho hum.
The pile up on Twitter was most entertaining.
Berlin (Brussels Morning) Alexei Navalny re-introduces the public to Putin’s Palace
The opposition leader of the Russian Federation and his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) shared a report on Putin’s Palace, estimated to be worth around 1.4 billion dollars. The report and an almost two-hour-long documentary film promise a unique tour into the property — a sprawling complex near the resort town of Gelendzhik.
During his recovery in Germany, opponent Alexei Navalny has been proactive in revealing home truths about his homeland’s current regime, not least about what he called “the most expensive palace in the world”, and “a new Versailles, new Winter Palace”.
Following the steps of the great emperors and tsars of the past, Putin’s Palace has a 2,500 square metre greenhouse, a theatre, 11 master rooms, a church, guardhouse, casino, hookah bar and an underground ice hockey complex.
For security reasons the Palace is surrounded by a forest and security while there are rumours of an underground tunnel leading out to the Black Sea.
The Palace has Renaissance elements and is characterised architecturally by Neoclassicism, Baroque and Rococo styles you should know. There is a 56,000-dollar table, 850 -dollar toilet brush, 1,250-dollar toilet roll holder, and 27,000-dollar sofa.
No doubt, Putin’s Palace is an excellent choice for retirement. Whenever that is, Putin decides to exit the political scene.
Istanbul (Brussels Eye) Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be glad to hear that two more palaces will be added to the presidency’s real estate portfolio.
One will be built at the popular resort of Marmaris on the Aegean with the other in Ahlat, a lakeside town in eastern Turkey. Erdogan and those close to the president will be able to “withdraw” from public attention during Summer or Winter, to continue important work without interruption.
There are currently three palaces pegged as assets for the Turkish Presidency Istanbul all former Ottoman abodes. Two more are located in Ankara — a relatively new palace and Cankaya Mansion, used by all previous Presidents of the Republic. The two new palaces are intended as Summer and Winter residences.
Despite the ongoing economic and health crises in the country, the additional real estate will cost the Turkish taxpayer more than 90 million euros. Together with maintenance costs for all the other properties, the 2021 bill will total in excess of 100 million euros.
The opposition has openly criticised the decisison as at least provocative.
Brussels (Brussels Morning) Pompeo’s trip to Belgium cancelled
As part of its transition arrangements for the incoming US presidential administration, the US State Department has cancelled all traveling this week, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Belgium, which was due to go ahead on 13-14 January with visits to NATO and a bilateral meeting with the Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes. Remarkably, as mentioned on 12 January, no meetings with the EU’s High Representative Borrell or other Commissioners were planned.
Debauchery, snubs and a Finnish kerfuffle — all in a week’s work
Brussels (Brussels Morning) Disgraced MEP faces investigation
The disgraced Hungarian MEP caught at a lockdown party involving group sex and drugs in November is still under investigation. Jozsef Szajer, a close confident of President Victor Orban, resigned from the European Parliament last month, found climbing down a drainpipe half-naked to evade the police raid in downtown Brussels.
Twenty-five partygoers from the city’s illustrious gay party scene will now have to answer to the court. Belgium is still in lockdown with an evening curfew and ban on assemblies since the start of November. Belgian tabloid La Dernière Heure reported the party as” debauchery”, involving an orgy, drugs and alcohol. Quite in contrary to the sanitary standards required during the pandemic.
A formal investigation for drug consumption and breach of lockdown rules is underway. Szajer, who professes to socially conservative values of the Hungarian right-wing Fidesz party, denies taking drugs, despite being in possession of an ecstasy pill when police caught up with him. Szajer admitted breaching the ban on assembly, which has kept Belgians far from party celebrations for the majority of the last year.
Brussels (Brussels Morning) Pompeo snubs EU on Brussels visit tomorrow US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will pay an unexpected visit to Belgium on Wednesday and Thursday to visit NATO. His schedule is, however, still fairly free, having not scheduled meetings with any EU institution, and no contact between the US administration and EU High Representative Josep Borrell. There are also no press conferences on the cards.
Pompeo will sit down with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sophie Wilmès to discuss the transatlantic partnership and champion NATO’s ongoing success safeguarding the transatlantic community and adapting to new security challenges. Pompeo’s visit also serves to reaffirm the bilateral relationship between the US and Belgium, according to a US State Department communiqué.
Brussels (Brussels Morning) Finnish PM defensive for stepping out of EU summit due to COVID Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin is being questioned over leaving a European Council meeting with other heads of state and government in October. At the mid-October meeting in Brussels, Marin received a message on the government’s coronavirus app, warning her of close contact with an infected person.
She left the Brussels meeting early to return to Finland and asked Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfvén to stand in for her. The incident caused a stir as, while not unconstitutional, some view this as Marin evading her prime ministerial responsibilities.
Meanwhile, Marin’s predecessor Juha Sipilä was manhandled last week after stepping out of his Parliamentary office. Finnish tabloid Iltalehti reports Sipilä did not sustain injuries.
European Parliament, Offending Behaviour
Brussels (Brussels Morning) It’s been a week since Swedish MEP Fredrick Federley (ALDE) quit the European Parliament, supposedly leaving politics for good. The pressure finally caught up with Federley after housing his friend, a convicted child sex offender, in his country home — where he has children of his own — just after being freed from prison. The man was said to be doing the liberal party politician’s social media.
The debacle got particularly sour when it was reported he was in a meeting with the convicted child sex offender’s probation officer. Swedish daily Aftonbladet said the 42-year-old politician got very upset on learning he had to warn those in contact with the man of his past crimes, fearing it would hurt his own reputation. He faced rebuke from his party’s leadership for allegedly trying to influence the probation service’s obligations for disclosure.
Greece, Spy Games
What is a diplomatic dispute without a touch of espionage? As tensions between Greece and Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean rise, the sager resulted in the arrest of two Greek men on the island of Rhodes last Saturday, on suspicion of espionage for Turkey. One of the men, 55, worked as a cook on a ferryboat serving Rhodes and Kastellorizo. The other worked at the Turkish Consulate and had been under Greece’s surveillance for two years.
In questioning, the cook admitted to taking pictures of military bases, frigates, and ports. He would then give them to the consulate employee, who, in turn, passed them to the Turkish Intelligence Agency. Data recovered from the two men’s seized laptops, USB sticks and cameras suggests they exchanged more than 2,500 files of such content.