Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras again focused on communications management today, continuing his shows over the fire-stricken areas. The operation “Extinguish the flames at the PM’s office, protect the prime minister” is in full swing, as his speech today confirmed.
Despite the fact that he denounced a communications handling of the crisis, he played the card he knows best. That includes correcting past ailments, grandiose plans that come out of nowhere but have not been implemented over the past three-and-a-half years, and throwing the ball out of the court as regards responsibilities.
By creating an “independent committee” under German Professor Johann Georg Goldammer, he is essentially putting “substantial political and criminal responsibility” on the back burner. Naturally, there was no apology once again, as that is only “verbal acrobatics”, as Athens Prefect Rena Dourou said.
Judging by the independent committees created at times by the government (such as the one on debt management), the conclusions will come months later, and probably after elections.
Playing for time
With all that Alexis Tsipras said, combined with his rejection of early elections, he essentially wants to play for time politically.
He is banking on the communications advantage, which he had lost for 15 days, and is on the counter-attack to slip out of his difficult position. He is hoping for a change in the political climate with his next moves.
With the planned announcement of a radical reshuffle in the government and the party, he may exploit the timing very soon. He will also stage a mini celebration (possibly in Kastelorizo or Zappeio), to announce the end of the memorandums.
Even his grandiose announcements cannot persuade citizens that this government can manage critical issues and national disasters.
There has been a complete rupture between the government and society, due to inadequacy in the Mati affair, and a series of other issues, such as the Mandra flooding tragedy, the Macedonian naming issue on which coalition junior partner Kammenos is blackmailing, Greek-Turkish relations, the imprisonment of two Greek officers in Turkey, and the serious crisis in relations with Russia.
Many questions arise from the PM’s speech today. Why did he not create this autonomous, powerful Emergency Management service earlier? Did 93 people have to be sacrificed for the government to understand that Civil Protection was another state-run and inadequate service?
The General Secretary of Civil Protection was Kapakis, a friend of ministers Kotzias and Toskas. Why did they not ask over the past years what was going on? Why did they not solve the problems before Mati?
Does not the choice of Tafyllis as head of the new service (which will handle huge funds and have great power) signal that the PM’s office will supervise everything?
Tafyllis is not an independent expert who will reject dependencies. He is a party cadre of the “deep” SYRIZA, so how independent can he be? Unless Tafyllis is a transitional choice until an expert can be found.
Tsipras announced that there will be 500mn euros in funding from the EIB, the EU’s National Strategic Reference Framework, and the national Public Investment Programme.
The question is how so much money was tied up in so few days. This is not 10 or 20mn, but half a billion euros. Could state funds not have been found to solve serious Civil Protection or Fire Service problems?
The role of the German professor
Even the choice of Professor Johann Georg Goldammer appears predetermined, as a few hours ago he already held a news conference about the Mati fire.
He made proposals about who could staff the committee, even before the PM announced his view.
Asked what must be done now, he said, “My most important proposal is to have a round table with all those involved and draft a national “holistic plan” for the prevention and handling of disasters such as Mati. Very few countries have that, but it is a great challenge. Greece must redefine itself, to consider changes in society, the environment, land use, and the climate. It must decide collectively what should be done. It has exceptional scientists such as G. Xanthopoulos, Yorgos Eftyhidis of the Security Studies Centre (KEMEA), Yannis Mitsopoulos (a professor at the Alexandreio Educational Foundation in Thessaloniki), and Yorgos Mallinis (an assistant professor at Dimokriteio Thrace University). Foreign experts such as ourselves are always at your disposal and it will cost nothing. We will do it from a sense of responsibility,” he said.
The professor whose name Tsipras repeatedly mentioned had been recruited considerable earlier than today’s speech.
Nobody is to blame
Just by chance – or was it? – the professor in his news conference adopted the line of the government, that nothing could have been done about the fire. He said the strong winds, and anarchic town planning were to blame, and that there could be no evacuation due to wind speed and the velocity of the fire.
Essentially, a professor who is expert in fires comes to head an independent committee to probe the case, and he has already acquitted everyone, especially the government.
Since nothing could have been done by the Fire Service, Greek Police, and the prefecture, the Mati tragedy will remain essentially unpunished. What is to blame, according to the German professor, is the wind, climate change, and illegal construction.
These are very peculiar coincidences and agreements, especially since the PM spoke of “possible” mistakes, thus announcing a tough investigation that will lead nowhere.
The punishment for the 93 dead will be limited to the Iphigeneias: Toskas, Tsouvalas, Kapakis, and Terzsoudis.