In his first press conference since the outbreak of the devastating wildfires that wreaked havoc over the course of more than a week, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis acknowledged failures in dealing with the infernos while also announcing measures to shield the country against the climate crisis.
He insisted responsibility “will be assigned” in due course, hinting at the possibility of a cabinet reshuffle. He clarified, however, that the responsibility is both individual and collective and also concerns “structures and processes.”
This responsibility will be assigned, he added, with a clear mind and not in the heat of the moment.
“The government has shown that it does not hesitate to acknowledge its mistakes… we did what was humanly possible, but in some cases it was not enough,” he said.
He stressed that the preparations that were in place cannot be dismissed, while at the same time conceding that reality exceeded these preparations, as the heat and drought turned the country into a powder keg. Authorities, he said, had faced around 100 active blazes each day.
“Next year we will be better,” he said, while warning that the danger is still present.
“The climate crisis – I’d like to use this term, and not climate change – the climate crisis is here,” he said, adding that he was ready to make the “bold changes.” This includes a new climate law that will reach Parliament in the very near future and the establishment of a Special Forest Operations Unit consisting of 500 people.
“This can be done within 2022,” he said.
Mitsotakis also made a point of underscoring the fact that despite the great environmental catastrophe, there were no losses of human lives, apart from the death of the 38-year-old volunteer Vasilis Filoras.
He also defended the evacuations of settlements.
“I find it difficult to understand how one can criticize a policy whose ultimate goal is the protection of life. I find the speculation mainly on social media regarding evacuations as vulgar,” he said.
In the meantime, those affected by the fires will be given immediate financial assistance. “The citizens will not be helpless. The state will be by their side,” he noted, making special reference to the commission set up for the restoration of northern Evia.