OPINION

A greener agenda

If the prime minister agrees with the president of the republic that «protecting the environment is a matter of democracy,» then he ought to get his act together. Given that forest fires have become a daily phenomenon, Costas Karamanlis’s response must be swift and drastic, on a tactical as well as a strategic level. The premier must start by setting up an independent environment ministry. The person he puts in charge should be a senior official with a clear vision and determination to clash with vested interests. There is nothing more important than protecting our forests, the air we breathe, the water we drink. At stake is our health and, ultimately, life itself. The international community – and not just the pioneering activists – are mobilizing. A former US vice president is campaigning for the environment, warning us that in 10 years it will be too late. The conservative German chancellor has made promotion of green technologies a top priority. Even the usually reluctant George W. Bush has been forced to take some drastic steps. The recent G8 summit focused on the issue. The UN will hold an extraordinary summit in New York on September 24. The Greek premier ought to be there. Some of his aides will try to discourage him because of election campaign preparations. But they should keep in mind that the Greek public, still counting the damage from natural disasters, will be voting also on the basis of parties’ environmental agendas. Papoulias stressed that «when we talk about quality of democracy, we can only mean an ecological democracy centered on protecting nature.» Papoulias underscored the issue, expressing the collective concern of the Greek people. But there isn’t much he can do on an institutional level. That’s up to the premier.