Facing criticism over his alleged poor handling of the fires and floods that hit Greece this summer, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis promised new funding and reforms to combat the “climate war.” The promises could revive his newly elected government’s image, which has been tarnished by footage of residents sheltering on their roofs in desperate need of help as rising waters inundate ill-prepared regions.
“Greece is facing war in a time of peace,” Mitsotakis said in his keynote speech at the Thessaloniki International Fair on Saturday.
“Over a two-week period we experienced the worst wildfire and flooding in our history,” he added.
“The climate crisis is here and it is forcing us to see everything differently,” he said.
The floods devastated the fertile plain of Thessaly in central Greece in early September.
The storms killed 17 people, destroyed cotton crops and fruit trees and killed hundreds of thousands of animals in Greece’s granary.
They devastated a country that, according to a European Commission spokesman, had just been hit by “the largest fire ever recorded in the EU” in the northeastern Evros region on the border with Turkey.
The fires killed 28 people, including two fire brigade pilots and 20 migrants in the Evros region.
The deadly fire followed intense flames that ravaged the tourist islands of Rhodes and Corfu in July, prompting thousands of evacuations.
Mitsotakis also promised a 10 percent reduction in property taxes for anyone who insures their home against natural disasters, adding that he is considering making such insurance mandatory.
The Sunday newspaper Protothema viewed these announcements as a “reset” for the government.
The Conservative leader acknowledged some “confusion of responsibilities” between government services responsible for responding to torrential rain, as well as “the frequent tendency” to shift blame elsewhere.
“In Thessaly and Evros I heard the anger of the people,” said the prime minister, whose New Democracy (ND) party won an absolute majority in June’s parliamentary elections.
He has faced sharp criticism from the opposition and residents affected by the floods.
The government has been criticized for the slowness of emergency services and a lack of preparation, despite Thessaly having already been hit by extreme weather events in 2020.
In the hours after the disaster, failures in cooperation between the army and civil protection were highlighted.
Just three months into his term, Mitsotakis has seen two of his ministers resign, including one in charge of citizen protection, because he was vacationing on an island in the Aegean Sea while fires raged.
There are rumors in the press about a cabinet reshuffle after local elections on October 8, although the government spokesman has denied such plans.
According to analysts and media, the Minister of Civil Protection and Climate Crisis, Vassilis Kikilias, is also in the hot seat.
The Mitsotakis government bears “enormous responsibility” for the destruction caused by the extreme weather, denounced Effie Achtsioglou, former labor minister and presidential candidate of the left-wing Syriza party.
She condemned the fact that “no serious flood protection measures have been carried out”.
According to a survey by the private television channel Mega, 61 percent of those surveyed have a negative image of the government and 66 percent believe that the country is going in the wrong direction.
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Source : www.ndtv.com