29 August, 2007
The government on Tuesday announced the establishment of special development programmes for every fire-ravaged prefecture in the country, with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis himself announcing the measures following meetings at the economy, health and social security ministries.
Karamanlis emphasised that his presence at the ministries aims to stress the message that "we are all standing by the fire stricken -- All Greeks must be united. To demonstrate, as in the past, that faced with a natural crisis we become one soul, one fist. We are obligated to whatever is possible to support the citizens harmed by the fires," Karamanlis said, adding:
"We must also do whatever we can so the younger generations are not disappointed, so that they remain in their villages to rebuild their homes, to farm their land. This is our absolute priority," Karamanlis added.
The Greek prime minister noted that every effort possible will be made to dramatically reduce redtape and bureaucratic procedures in dolling out aid, assistance and long-term development grants.
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday night visited the military base in Elefsina, on the outskirts of Piraeus, and thanked the pilots, Greek and foreign, of the fire-fighting aircraft and helicopters for their self-sacrifice in the efforts for extinguishing the wildfires which have swept the country.
In a brief address, Karamanlis expressed “the gratitude of all Greeks for what they (the pilots) are doing as well as admiration for the self-sacrifice which they show in the carrying out of their difficult mission.”
The prime minister assured his full trust and whole-hearted support and noted that “in these difficult hours you are giving the example of solidarity and contribution. With your heroism you are sending messages to the whole of Greek society.”
The prime minister expressed his gratitude to the technical personnel who work day and night for the fire-fighting aircraft and helicopters to be in perfect condition and ready for action.
Karamanlis particularly thanked the pilots who arrived from the European Union and from other countries, offering “valuable contribution to the titanic task of completely extinguishing the fires.”
The prime minister directed his thanks to the foreign pilots in English and wished them all good health and strength.
The government of Costas Karamanlis "disappointed" the Greek people with its inability to handle the fires that raged all summer, main opposition PASOK's leader George Papandreou said on Tuesday after meeting President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias.
"We are all facing a national tragedy. We stand forward during this national crisis with a united spirit and deep feelings of solidarity and support for the victims, with every desire to offer and every desire to contribute in all possible ways in the handling of this crisis," he told reporters after the meeting.
According to Papandreou, the government had proved "pathetically incompetent" of dealing with the issue of the fires throughout the summer and had not been been able to save the lives, property and homes of Greek citizens.
It was now continuing to behave without the required sense of seriousness and responsibility by putting forward theories of a terrorist conspiracy that damaged the country's image, undermined democratic institutions and terrorised the Greek public, the main opposition leader added.
Noting that the country could not cope with a government supported by fear, insecurity, division and fanaticism, he said it was time for the Greek people to choose for themselves a powerful government that guaranteed security, certainty, hope and prospects.
He did not reply when asked if he and Papoulias had discussed a meeting of the political party leaders.
After his meeting with the president, PASOK's leader visited the General Accounting Office where the 1555 helpline for the fire victims has been set up. During the visit, staff briefed Papandreou on the needs expressed by victims of the fires that had been recorded by the helpline operators.
As he was departing, he also briefly met Deputy Economy Minister Petros Doukas who came to the General Accounting Office to meet the main opposition leader when he learned of his visit.
Main opposition PASOK party spokesman Yiannis Ragoussis said on Tuesday that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his ministers are even speaking today of asymmetrical threats, meaning that they are speaking of terrorism and war that is under way against the country.
"The president of PASOK dared and called on Mr. Karamanlis yesterday to give any evidence he has to the Greek people now. Did you hear Mr. Roussopoulos giving any evidence today? No. Therefore, there is no evidence, therefore Mr. Karamanlis and his government, at a time when they should be making their self-criticism, at a time when they should be apologising to the Greek people, decided to set up unacceptable and unprecedented propaganda," the spokesman said.
"It has been proved today that the only thing that exists is no September 11 style asymmetrical threat, that is threatening our country, but there is one and only communication plan by the government of the 'September 16' style," Ragoussis added.
Source: Athens News Agency