NEWS

Law, order and justice

A number of measures announced by Justice Minister Anastasis Papaligouras which are expected to be carried out in the new year will improve the operation of criminal courts, speed up judicial procedures and lighten the backlog of cases. Prisoners have already been separated according to age, crime and sentence at five prisons and the changes are under way at another four, while vocational training has been improved as well. «Second chance» schools are popping up, while a model school at the juvenile correction center at Avlona was completed in record time. The Justice Ministry’s main priority for 2005 is to make more room in the country’s prisons, and to this end, considerable efforts are being made to conclude a bilateral agreement with Albania for the repatriation of about 2,000 Albanians in Greek prisons, many of them serving life terms, who will complete their terms in their home country in a prison to be built with Greek money. Similar agreements are being negotiated with Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro and FYROM. Last year was a significant one for the Public Order Ministry, given vast security preparations for the Olympic Games, which proved successful. The second major test of the new procedures occurred shortly before the end of the year with the hijacking of a bus near Athens, a crisis that was successfully dealt with. Priorities for this year include ensuring that the technology, know-how and training acquired for the Games, the largest investment ever made in Greece’s security forces, be exploited to the full by setting up a Center for the Study of Civil Security, for which a bill is expected to be tabled within the next few weeks. Other changes include an emphasis on the new National Highway Traffic Police force, of which the first departments will go into operation in January and will, one hopes, reduce the number of traffic accidents.