On Friday, January 21, we were presented with an official press release of the kind that is so often published as is, in the place of proper reporting, by many newspapers and online news outlets. It read:
“At an extensive meeting of all the relevant agencies and authorities, the minister for the climate crisis and civil protection stressed that every service will be in a state of full preparedness, night and day, throughout the duration of these phenomena. Mr Stylianides underscored that the entire state apparatus, with complete vigilance, will do everything in its power to keep the country functional.”
Complete vigilance: Check. Full Preparedness: Check. And just to be sure, the minister said it all again, verbatim, after another extensive meeting of all the relevant agencies and authorities on the following Sunday.
Now Stylianides has a target painted on his back. Not so much by the motorists who were trapped in the snow on the Attiki Odos highway for hours, and on Mesogeion, Kifissias and Marathonos avenues, but by his colleagues in the government. They are obviously hoping that he will take the fall instead of them. After all, he is a Cypriot without significant alliances in Athens and the political establishment was not exactly delighted when he was invited to head the newly established ministry last September. So, to cut a long story short, he’s a sitting duck. If some meteorologist also takes the fall, then everything will be OK this time around as well. And all the other ministers, officials and authorities will be able to continue crowing about how great they are and making snarky comments suggesting that the hoi polloi is simply ignorant of their excellence.
But Stylianidis was not alone in these “extensive meetings,” as the press releases reassured us. Other ministers and officials were there as well. Foremost among them, Akis Skertsos, presumably in the role of “Instead Of.” Ministry secretaries were also there, as were regional governors, starting with His Mediocrity Giorgos Patoulis, the head of the Attica Regional Authority, who gave some 40-odd television interviews to assure the public – in Greek that makes even Health Minister Thanos Plevris’ appalling Greek pale by comparison – that every single precaution has been taken to address any problems arising from the impending snowstorm. He even bought a new outdoorsy jacket for the occasion.
The meetings were also attended by the director of the National Weather Service (EMY), Theodoros Kolydas. And now, the others – like Skertos, like Stylianides, like Alternate Interior Minister Stelios Petsas and, of course, like the prime minister’s spokesman Giannis Oikonomou – are trying to dismiss the expert as a liar or a mediocre scientist, accusing him of failing to warn the government properly and in good time of the extreme weather front that was about to hit Greece and the capital.
It’s funny, you might say. But the truth is that it’s absolutely tragic. Because if government officials are prepared to so viciously insult a person who has all the meteorological forecasts and announcements made in the days leading up to Monday’s storm on his side, just imagine how aggressive they can be against those who cannot defend themselves.
Indeed, where was the prime minister during these meetings? And what about later, when chaos erupted?