Politicians to blame

Last week’s forest fires in Rafina and Voutza have left great destruction and devastation in their wake. One of Attica’s few remaining greenbelt areas has been lost, in addition to private property. As this is not the first time something like this has happened, the reaction should not simply be an account of the damages and a search for the perpetrators. Of course this must done, but if we are truly interested in digging deeper to find the real causes of the crime, if we want to think about the future, then the investigation will also have to be political. It should uncover and deal with those weaknesses in the system that open the way for arsonists and others who would destroy the Greek environment. As this newspaper commented the day after the fire, the first piece of evidence of political «guilt» regarding the destruction of Greece’s forests can be traced to the state’s failure to implement the law. Not only are inspections perfunctory – where they exist at all – not only are the penalties too light to act as any deterrent, but every so often special laws are passed that vindicate land-grabbers en masse. In the midst of such chaos, it is not difficult for arsonists to exploit the situation, particularly where «local communities» care more about finding more land to build upon than in protecting their surroundings. The country’s political administration is the only truly guilty party. It no longer has any excuse. Given the availability of modern firefighting equipment and methods, even technical difficulties can no longer be cited, so that even if we don’t know what was happening in 1930, it was quite obvious in 1990. Yet despite all the means at the authorities’ disposal, the country still doesn’t have a land register. Land use classifications are still not determined and, above all, there is no security before the law. The law-abiding are afraid that they could lose their property, while those who break the law are hoping to get whatever they want. The conclusions to be drawn regarding the achievements of Greece’s politicians are truly overwhelming. On the one hand, we have delays and administrative incompetence, on the other, there is the inability to establish land use classifications that won’t change every now and then according to the desires of interest groups and partisan expediencies. This is where Greece still appears to be a Third World country, and only has its leaders to blame. Unfortunately, there are no encouraging signs giving us hope that things might change.