The campaign “No to racism” has been one of UEFA’s main messages for years. This is logical since it is extremely important that the most popular sport on the planet sends a message that it rejects racism, intolerance and violence, and at the same time, this is urgent, if we consider that the Far Right is now looking to stadiums stands and fans to create fascist cells.

However, one wonders to what extent a man like the candidate for EPO’s presidency, Panagiotis Baltakos, will be able align himself in the “No to Racism” direction, as he has admitted that he blocked an anti-racism bill, so as not to lose votes for the party he supported; a man who has admitted to being an “interlocutor” with the far-right criminal organization Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi), and who in recent years has been active in the political space “to the right of the right”.

Yet one also wonders to what extent a person with this background and ideology will be able to put into practice the “holistic study”, prepared by international federations (which still have Greek football “under supervision”, lest we do not forget) and, in the end, to rescue Greek football from a deep and prolonged crisis, which has reached the point of making a football-like Brexit a real possibility.

When Baltakos was “talking” to Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn)

Panagiotis (Takis) Baltakos is one of the politicians who have the “honor” of knowing that they are identified with a… Baltakos-gate.

On April 2, 2014, a video was released showing a conversation between then Golden Dawn MP Elias Kasidiaris, already at the time accused of participating in a criminal organization, and the then secretary general of the Greek government, Panagiotis Baltakos. The dialogue is particularly revealing:

KAS.: When I was first elected, what happened to Samaras, can you tell me?
BAL: He was in America then.
KAS: Yes, he was in America, but I have learned that he suffered a shock.
BAL: Shock and awe! A major fuck up… he didn’t call me, I told him what you’re doing, I told him. He wouldn’t tell me about this thing. He called the other two and tore them a new one, Athanassiou and Dendias: (he said) “you fooled me, you tricked me, this is shameful”.
Because he had made a statement to the American Zionist Congress the day before that: “it’s over, I tied them up, I tied them up, goodbye!” and the next day you’re out. The reason is that the previous day he made a statement to an American Zionist conference that “It’s over, I tied them, I tied them, goodbye!” yet the next day you’re out.
KAS.: With the investigating magistrates you left us with, in the crucial stage, what happened? Because they made an about face, after they left us, after they took the others, they again made a reversal.
BAL: They left you alone for the simple reason that there is no evidence.
KAS.: Yes, ok, there was nothing.
BAL: And no one called on them to press them, because everyone took it as self-evident; everyone took it for granted: “Well, what could the investigating magistrate do?” THE INVESTIGATING MAGISTRATE DIDN’T HAVE ANY EVIDENCE! NOT ONE!
KAS.: There was nothing for the others, either…
BAL.: But he was with the others… (he makes the motion of making a phone call).
KAS.: Who did the damage there?
BAL: Both.
KAS.: Dendias, Athanassiou?
BAL: Who else …
KAS.: And what does Samaras say about this? Is he aware of what is happening?
BAL: No, not at first, but now that he saw the opinion polls… he thought, as a bourgeois that he is, that all these profound 2% – as he tells me – will evaporate”… I tell him: “I tell you that they will reach 20%”. He responds: “You’re a wanker”.
KAS.: Who told him to do that?
BAL: First of all, he’s afraid for himself. Because you are cutting him off from being ahead of Syriza.
KAS.: So, it’s his votes, okay?
BAL: It makes sense.
KAS.: And because we’re taking his votes, he’s going to put us in prison?
BAL: Damn it, unbelievable, unbelievable.
KAS.: And what did Roupakiotis say?
BAL.: That’s for sure, since he did it the week he was going there.
KAS.: And Goutzamani, the things she did, and about whom I had information that she was right-wing, and confirmed.
BAL.: (makes the sign of the Cross).
KAS.: She’s very pious.
BAL: Yes.
KAS.: How did she do all these shameful things with Vourliotis, and with the frame-up of this report?
BAL: They convinced her that “they’re pagans, idolaters, Nazis and that they are opposed to Christianity”.
KAS.: Who convinced her of these things?
BAL: Athanassiou and Dendias.
KAS.: You need to go to the prosecutor and say who set up this whole conspiracy: that Athanassiou gave an order to Goutzamanis, that Samaras had given an order to Athanassiou, for all of them to go on trial. If you are an honorable person this is what you should do.
BAL: If I do this now, he’ll conduct a preliminary investigation lasting half an hour, and then shelve it.
KAS.: You think so?
BAL.: Well, of course! I am to do this with a Samaras government? Which prosecutor will I turn to? Goutzamani is a prosecutor, herself. Am I to denounce Goutzamani to herself?
KAS.: How did Goutzamani become a supreme court prosecutor?
BAL: She’s from the same village.
KAS.: So now he’s returning the favor.
BAL.: Yes, he is from the same village. That is, he’s is not from the exact same village, but from the adjacent villages, that is. But they have entered the same process, they are almost the same age. They are from the same hometown; we do not need to look further.”

The publication of the conversations caused a stir.

Which is an expected result, since a government official appeared talking to the Golden Dawn members, essentially sharing their views, appearing to portray the attempt to prosecute the Golden Dawn as a criminal organization as a kind of “conspiracy”.

Not only did the then main opposition party, but also the PASOK party, immediately demand the removal of Baltakos from his position. In fact, the statement by PASOK at the time was very telling: “There can be no extreme right-wing pocket within the government, one that undermines government policy and the respect of the (coalition) policy agreement that governs it. Moreover, selective affinities with pro-Nazism, xenophobia, racism, the far right, sooner or later, manifest themselves, are exposed and paid for.”

Baltakos himself, in his resignation letter, did not deny the conversation, but claimed he was just trying to “alleviate the pressure” exerted, and that he had told them that “there is no conspiracy”.

In an interview, he also tried to justify the unjustifiable by claiming that he had to say what the Golden Dawn cadres wanted to hear, in order to “keep in touch with them”: “I kept talking with the Golden Dawners, I told them some of the things they wanted to hear, It couldn’t be done otherwise. They even went so far as to ask me for dedications in the books I have written about Sparta. They may have recorded, as they say, other conversations as well. This, after all, is who they are, as it turned out. It means nothing. Everything I said served a purpose, so it had to be done. We had to know their thoughts, strategies and moves.”

Stinging international reactions will follow. Baltakos’ case will be described as “outrageous” by the President of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald Lauder, while the CEO of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), David Harris, will say that the “…meeting with Golden Dawn is shocking enough by itself, but expressing sympathy for the party — or, in reality, the criminal organization, as the government has declared — is beyond belief.”

However, in the Golden Dawn trial, additional evidence will emerge about Baltakos’ close contacts with the neo-Nazi Parliament deputies, who even referred to a peculiar guidance, from him, on how to vote in Parliament. In fact, in a message, former MP Panagiotis Iliopoulos, who was later convicted for joining and participating in Golden Dawn, writes about Baltakos: “He’s painted with our colors (believes in the party)”.

When the “Führer” Michaloliakos knew Baltakos in “nationalist struggles”

Of course, Baltakos didn’t first meet up with Golden Dawn in Parliament. He had met with some of its top cadres much earlier. In a speech in Parliament, the leader of Golden Dawn, Nikos Michaloliakos, will claim that he had met Baltakos much earlier, in the offices of the far right (and later involved in the coup against Makarios in Cyprus) EOKA II in 1973, and from other “nationalist struggles”:

“What Baltakos said to my comrade Kasidiaris is true, because he had told me the same things in person. No one knows Baltakos earlier than I do. I met Baltakos as a student in the nationalist struggles in 1973, at the office of EOKA II, which represented Gen. Digenis Grivas and later in the nationalist movement. (…) It’s characteristic that whenever Takis Baltakos wanted to tell me something, for security reasons, he would tell me to go outside on the balcony because he was afraid of listening devices and cameras.”

When Golden Dawn praised Baltakos books

Despite the fact that Baltakos, from one point onwards, will become politically active in New Democracy party, Golden Dawn never failed to praise his writings.

In 2005, shortly after the publication of his book “The End of the Nightmare”, the Golden Dawn magazine referred to it in a triumphant manner. The book is cited as “top of its kind”, one that it “shocks you from its first pages”, while in reference to Baltakos, Golden Dawn says he’s “Greek author P.D. Baltakos who does what all those who deal with ancient Greece should do […] he dispels the miserable notion, which at various times was spread by domestic and foreign persons with inferiority complexes, that renders our ancient ancestors as moving between homosexuality and orgies”.

In fact, one of the topics that Baltakos deals with in his books, namely, the Crypteia of ancient Sparta, a kind of paramilitary organization that was subjected to harsh training and carried out the assassination of Helots at night, and is one of the favorites tales of the Golden Dawn, who often praised the Crypteia actions during antiquity as an example for today.

Baltakos and an anti-racism bill that was ‘blocked’

Baltakos has been accused by former Minister of Justice Antonis Roupakiotis of “blocking” an anti-racism bill prepared in 2013 by the Ministry of Justice. “While we are ready, literally, to send the draft to the general secretariat of the government, the message from Maximos Mansion government house is: STOP, this anti-racist isn’t passable. […] And it was announced, afterwards, that the government’s Secretary General, Mr. Baltakos, and the Minister of State to the Prime Minister, Mr. Stamatis, undertook to draft this bill. Do you know what the result was? This law was passed in 2014, when Pavlos Fyssas had already been murdered.”

Baltakos himself has admitted that he did, in fact, block the bill because he did not want ND voters, who would disagree with the bill, to leave and head to more right-wing formations.

The attempt to create an extreme right axis

Although for many years a top cadre of New Democracy – with the exception of the period where he followed Antonis Samaras in the Political Spring party – Takis Baltakos, after his expulsion from the political forefront, will involve himself in the affairs of the wider far-right political spectrum.

In July 2018, he will co-sign a joint statement with expelled, by ANEL party, MP Dimitris Kammenos, announcing “our intention to establish a right-wing party with the further purpose of facilitating the formation of a wider Patriotic Front, so as to avoid the surrender of the name of Macedonia to the Slavs, and on the other hand, to remove from power the left-wing government, which not only proceeded to this sacrilege, but at the same time is an obvious obstacle to the economic development of the country. ”

A few months later, Kammenos and Baltakos will announce the establishment of the “Force of Hellenism” party, as a “truly patriotic party”. The announcement of the establishment of this party will describe that its vision is the recording and transmission of Greek education and the diffusion of Greek culture and Orthodoxy” and that its strategy includes “national independence with existing international cooperation, without the concession of national sovereignty in vital aspects”.

At the same time, the announcement underlined that “our homeland is universal Hellenism and our home is the traditional Greek family. The only hope for working people is rapid economic growth, which is hampered by leftist ideas and practices. The alteration of the Greek people, in terms of population and religion must be interrupted. Macedonia is one and it is Greek” the statement emphasized, among others, in the preamble of the party’s declaration of foundation.

However, this effort for a wider mobilization of the far-right political world will not succeed, and Baltakos will subsequently decide to run as a candidate in the 2019 European Parliament elections with the ANEL party of Panos Kammenos.

His participation doesn’t contribute to the electoral strength of the former defense minister’s party, as the 45,148 votes and a percentage of 0.8% will bring ANEL party to just 15th place among the parties that participated.

Can Baltakos help EPO emerge from disrepute?

EPO’s elections are particularly crucial. Let’s not forget that in the past we experienced another chapter of a prolonged crisis in Greek football, when the prospect of an administration led by incorruptible people, one that would undertake a real catharsis, and at the same time, reform Greek football and implement the “Holistic Study” was canceled. It was canceled because we first had the election of Zagorakis in an EPO where those responsible for all the problems of the previous period still had control, which led to the subsequent de facto pressure on Zagorakis to resign as president.

The fact that the man now being “anointed” for the next EPO president is burdened with “heavy” political baggage, and whose history comes into conflict not only with the wider de-legitimization of the far right in Greek society, but also with the clear priority of international football federations to combat racism and xenophobia, probably aids in deepening Greek football’s crisis, rather than an exit from it.

As the wise popular saying goes, “a bright day appears from the morning”.

Takis Baltakos has already managed to become a dominant figure in the news.

In his policy statements, he recalled his political beginnings and perhaps pointed to a personal agenda, putting on the table the issue of North Macedonia and its continued reference to “Macedonia” only in international sporting events: “What Greece agreed to is that this country has a name. If I am elected, I will work very hard to stop this distortion,” he said.

On the other hand, what Alexis Kougias charged not only blocks his counterpart’s candidacy for the presidency of the EPO, but also brings to the fore serious suggestions of possible forgery, which may even end up in courtrooms.

Specifically, the well-known criminal defense attorney claims that Takis Baltakos not only ignored EPO’s statutes (Annex A, article 5) which explicitly forbids a person who has financial dealings with the Federation to declare a candidacy for any office, but also in cooperation with the Federation’s Legal Service of the Federation – but also of the court secretary – entailed with his participation as the legal representative in a case involving EPO, which miraculously “disappeared” from the indictment!

The elephant just started walking in the… living room!

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