Unleashing a blistering attack on Minister of Digital Policy, Communications and Information Nikos Pappas, Dr. Stamatis Krimizis resigned yesterday from the Hellenic Space Agency (HSA).

Almost a month after he was appointed president of the Board of the new agency, the distinguished academic, who for years served as director of NASA space programmes, in a lengthy open letter of resignation charges unprecedented interventions from Pappas’ political machine and the patronage state of the ruling SYRIZA-ANEL coalition.

Specifically, Krimizis charges that ministerial decisions issued after HSA was founded, “In practice annulled its reason for existence”, turning it into an “untrustworthy bureaucratic structure, which could become subjugated to any political supervisor”.

The Hellenic Space Agency was inaugurated by Pappas on 18 March, 2018, with the aim of creating a national space strategy and attracting European funds, through collaboration with research foundations and Greek companies. Krimizis successfully pressured to have the agency established as a public company, rather than as a DEKO (like public utilities), as Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos wanted.

A NASA veteran with a recognised managerial track-record, Krimizis said he assumed his duties after receiving Pappas’ necessary assurances, which were not honoured.

“I tried to do the best that could be done, using the best people. Unfortunately, the effort did not come to fruition,” he said in his resignation letter.

In the letter, he is critical of General Secretary of Communications and Post Offices Vasilis Maglaras.

“Unfortunately, it became clear very soon that (Maglaras) has undertaken , with the minister’s toleration, the role of ‘Space Czar’ in Greece, even though he has no knowledge or experience in this sector. It seems, therefore, that I am superfluous, since I do not accept being anyone’s mouthpiece,” Krimizis said.

“Conditions emerged that undermined the triple A (in Greek) – evaluation, meritocracy, and excellence – and render impossible my participation in HSA.”

The most unpleasant surprise, according to the distinguished academic, was when HSA was excluded by ministerial decision (3095/2018, Government Gazette volume 915, 15/3/2018) from the evaluation and funding management (of about 16 billion euros) of all space programmes of the European Space Agency, authority over which was assigned to select employees of the ministry’s general secretariat, contrary to international practice and any sense of logic, as the letter states.

Economic interests?

In his letter, Krimizis directly touches on the prospect of financial interests being related to HSA.

“I am obliged to be clear on this. When one announces in advance a programme for 11 microsatellites worth 23.9 million euros, one expects to have studies with the aims, specifications, the infrastructure construction plan, a realistic timetable, and the suitable personnel to carry it forward, especially when it is accompanied by pledges of swift completion. Unfortunately, those conditions do not exist, and the role of HSA in the programme is formal and pre-ordained.”

While noting in his letter that he has no evidence of financial mismanagement, Krimizis nonetheless recalls the “follow the money” catchword from the Watergate era.

Pappas’ response

Last night, Pappas announced that the new head of HAS will be Christodoulos Protopappas, the current head of Hellas Stat (now Arabsat after its sale to Arab interests). He is a mechanical engineer and former president of the European Satellite Operators Association (ESOA).

Pappas expressesd surprise over how quickly – four weeks – Krimizis “evaluated and irrevocably judged the country’s efforts to plan and implement a coordinated national space strategy”.

Kostas Delezos