NEWS

‘Not enough information’

Greeks have the sense that Exarchia is a state within a state. Irrespective of how it got that way, what can be done to change it in practice? It is useful to draw attention, in replying to your interesting question, to the fact that I respect Exarchia as a crucible for new ideas. This is an identity that the area has had for over 30 years and I am familiar with it and respect it. For that reason, I am not about to allow this district to be the origin of violent outbursts. Let us make ourselves clear. Ideas are not being persecuted. I will never do that. It is illegal acts of violence that we want to wipe out. We have our own plans for that. Violence, gas bombs, torching vehicles or breaking windows are not acceptable. We do not want a medal for transforming Exarchia, that is not our intention. I’m the minister, aren’t I? I am in charge. I mean that the debate of ideas, even if it questions authority, is a human right. But I do not accept it as a basis for an uprising, nor will I compromise on that. There have been a number of terrorist attacks since 2004. Why hasn’t even one suspect been arrested? Do you know who they are? Is it that you don’t have enough evidence? We condemn the effort to revive terrorism. It will not be permitted. We absolutely oppose those forces who want to cause upheaval within the country and Greek society. Naturally, we have to deal calmly and methodically with this new phenomenon, which is probably the work of locals, judging from the fact that Revolutionary Struggle has apparently assumed responsibility for these acts. The prime minister has ordered that the investigation be stepped up at all levels and in all sectors. The counterterrorism unit is taking action, along with special support from a kind of task force which is being coordinated and supervised by the deputy chief of the Greek Police. We as the police are working to wipe out these groups’ operations, and before that to eliminate, both politically and morally, all those who would operate in this way by using violence and terrorism. The state’s institutions are strong and able to do that. Do you have complete confidence in the Greek Police? Have you set them specific targets and deadlines for rooting out these groups or the new terrorists? I have complete faith in the leadership of the police force and all its officers and I demand results, as does all of society. Of course, I have set targets and I demand results; I have questioned those in charge about the lack of results. «Can’t you catch even one person throwing gas bombs even when they are on television? Can’t you catch Seisidis?» I ask them. I feel that I am not being given enough information, Do we need a new counterterrorism law for the job to be done? Will you suggest that? There is no lack of legislation. Don’t accuse me over issues of political violence. Accuse those who have been feeding political violence for 20 years. The Exarchia phenomenon did not happen overnight. I tell you today that even before the police actions, for which I assume responsibility, there is the need to isolate (these elements) morally and politically. Both by you, the media, and by the political parties in Parliament. I call on those who shape public opinion to exercise criticism of those who perpetrate political violence. Is the government afraid that someone could be killed during incidents or in dealing with hooligans? Is that an obstacle to the police doing their work? The police are not engaged in a vendetta with anyone. I have said that repeatedly. Violence on the part of those fighting authority is a unilateral action that has no real reasoning. It is abhorrent and unacceptable, a phenomenon that the police are dealing with in the unshakeable conviction that Greece is a peaceful country. This society does not need such experiments in 2007. They are also our children, those who «worship violence;» we don’t want to condemn them forever as «lost souls.» We give them our attention but those who are recruiting them do not think of them and are indifferent to the adverse consequences of their actions. Have you ever thought of resigning because of a sense that the services you lead are not able to do the job that is your political responsibility? Vyron Polydoras spends 18 hours a day at the ministry and expects results from the police, as does Greek society. We have tried hard; we have made every possible effort and the results have vindicated us. We had a successful year in 2006, a difficult year. We made progress in our plans to wipe out the worship of violence and to avert the worst. Our greatest achievement in these clashes was the fact that no blood was shed. That was not what the rioters wanted. Now everyone is following Polydoras’s reasoning, which is none other than the language of the truth that saves. Now everyone is talking about society’s demand for law and order and democratic legitimacy. Society – and all polls show this – trusts the police to an unprecedented degree (60-70 percent). It has been said that in the next few days we will be seeing snipers on rooftops and counterterrorism police patrolling the streets. Is that true? There is no such plan. The order provides for increased watches at police stations and double guards, but under no circumstances will there be images of Rambo. Consideration is being given, which is just a thought as yet, to the use of paintballs or rubber bullets against demonstrators or hooligans where it is seen as necessary. For police work generally, our plan is fivefold: foot patrols, patrols on motorcycle, mobile police stations in busy squares, motorcycle patrols of avenues and traffic police patrols of highways.