The catastrophic wildfires earlier this summer that destroyed thousands of hectares of forest, burned property and made the daily lives of everyone much worse, are certainly a blow to the Mitsotakis government that was responsible for extinguishing them.
But for the prime minister to put the blame on – now former – Minister of Citizen Protection Michalis Chrysochoidis for the apparent weaknesses of the state and the poor coordination of firefighting services (a responsibility that had been passed on to Civil Protection) was an unfair decision, clearly charged by the negative impressions caused by government’s response to the fires.
The appointment of Chrysochoidis as a minister was a brave and politically smart act by Kyriakos Mitsotakis, but also a right choice for what New Democracy had promised before the general election for the protection of citizens. It was a smart, brave opening of the prime minister to the center-left and a shift for New Democracy to the center, since this politician was not only a minister in the socialist PASOK governments, but also a secretary of PASOK’s Central Committee.
It was a right political choice because, on the one hand, it satisfied all the former PASOK/Movement for Change voters who voted for ND in the last election. On the other hand, it sent a message of seriousness and professionalism, since Chrysochoidis is a successful minister in this field. He is the man who was in charge when police arrested and dismantled the terrorist organization November 17, but also the one who restructured the country’s fire service. By then assigning responsibility to the conservative Panagiotis Fourlas, he managed to dramatically reduce the number of fires after 1999, at a time when Greece did not need climate change to burn every summer.
Despite some mistakes and exaggerations, Chrysochoidis justified Mitsotakis’ decision and continued his successful course at the ministry. He managed to remove the anarchists and other criminals from Exarchia and to hand the district back to its residents. He kept a close eye on suspected terrorists.
He managed to repel the aggressive invasion of thousands of immigrants at the Evros border, done with Turkey’s encouragement and organization, and to effectively fortify the border (with a wall and patrols with modern means), showing our European partners that Greece can guard Europe’s borders. He fought for universities without the usual suspects who operate inside the campuses, he reduced street crime by getting police officers out of their offices and increasing daily patrols.
Tuesday’s negative developments with the cabinet reshuffle – after Evangelos Apostolakis went back on his decision to accept the top job at the Civil Protection Ministry – must not stop the government’s effort for bold reforms and changes. And it is certain that there will be other opportunities to correct the blatant injustice that Chrysochoidis has suffered.