Interview of Mr. Christos Papoutsis, Minister of Citizen Protection in "Athens News" Paper
Friday, December 10th 2010
How is the image of the country worldwide affected by the recent successes of the Hellenic Law Enforcement Authorities in the fight against domestic terrorism? Were they just individual blows against the new generation of terrorists or are they part of a general plan? According to your estimate, when do you think we will be in a position to claim that domestic terrorism has been completely disrupted?
This is a major and successful operation of the Counter-Terrorism Division and the other security forces. It is an operation which has been methodically prepared and is still in progress. There have been numerous important findings so far, and some of the protagonists have been arrested.
The Greek law enforcement authorities have interrupted the circle of blood, by delivering a strong blow against the circuit of those people who have made the choice of using violence and causing terror in the society throughout their life. The investigation is ongoing with careful steps to all directions.
You estimate that the new generation of terrorists is linked to respective groups abroad. What is the degree of cooperation between the Greek law enforcement authorities and their foreign counterparts? Is there coordination on the European and Euro-Atlantic level and to what extent?
There is definitely close cooperation among the domestic security agencies of the EU member-states, as well as between those in the USA, in confronting all forms of organized crime. International cooperation is very important so as to guarantee security for Greek society.
So far, there is no evidence proving that there is a permanent collaboration with similar violence groups in other countries. They have probably studied their “ideological” background and modus operandi and used them as a model. But there is nothing more…
Which are the “counterweights” of the political system against such extreme phenomena? Which should the indicated “political response” be against terrorism?
Democracy’s response against those who hurt it has to be well-organized and determined. It is true that certain people attempt to entrap young boys and girls, taking advantage of their social impasses and anxiety for the future. The Government is constantly trying to give hope to the youth by reconstructing the country and bringing it back to the track of growth and prosperity. Our effort is to make choices that display every single day the democratic face in governing the country. And we keep reminding to every possible direction that all citizens have the right to security.
The implementation of the Memorandum has caused severe frictions within the Government, as delays, failures and even regressions are often observed. Is there actually a sound basis in the criticism that the Government did not negotiate the terms of the Memorandum sufficiently in the first place? Is there any room for renegotiating at least certain burdensome terms of the Memorandum?
George Papandreou’s Government has made a choice which was necessary, as a result of the impasses reached by the previous Government. A major effort is being made in all sectors, and the first results have already become visible. And the more we fulfill our commitments, the more our country shall gain back its lost credibility in the international community. The more we meet our targets, the more Greece shall enhance its ability to negotiate the revision of certain onerous terms of the Memorandum.
Besides, the whole European history is full of continuous efforts of the peoples and negotiations of the Governments…
After all, what is the golden recipe: “incompliance” to the Memorandum with the hope that its hardest terms might become less stringent or its unswerving implementation? How do you judge the Government’s image, when certain Ministers appear to be moving within the limits of the Memorandum while others seem to be attempting to overturn at least some part of it? Should we consider in advance as certain that the fourth installment of the loan will be disbursed next March?
There are no golden recipes; there is only hard work ahead. The memorandum is a reality that nobody can deny. It is a loan contract of 110 billion euro, without which we would have gone bankrupt, and without which we cannot proceed. However, many of the initiatives taken by the Government were not imposed by the memorandum. They are reforms and changes treating chronic structural problems of public administration and economy.
And we all need to understand that the task we are obliged to perform is very difficult. There are delays caused by numerous difficulties and chronic pathologies of the administration in several fields.
Of course there is always room for improvement. There is no doubt, though, that we are making a titan effort to rescue the country.
What is the Government’s response to the suffocating pressures put by trade unions and social stakeholders in relation to the impending structural changes? How is it possible to ensure their unobstructed promotion without negatively affecting labor rights and without causing social unrest?
Citizens do acknowledge that the situation is difficult. And that the whole cycle of economy is compressed. And at the same time, it is unfortunately true that some people have been called upon to pay the price disproportionally.
Employees obviously have the right to struggle and request the best for their life.
However, the Government is forced to proceed to corrective interventions in the organizing of economic relations, upon the criterion of rescuing the country and ensuring the future prospect for its economy and society.
And we have the obligation to insist on society’s cohesion, citizens’ consensus and labor peace. For us, for the PASOK Government, the decision is given. We decisively come in to treat the pathologies and arrhythmias of the state and the economy that have led us to today’s impasses. And we are going to succeed. This time, the citizens’ sacrifices will not go wasted. ?
The prime-minister, Mr. George Papandreou, keeps inviting the opposition to come to agreement, stressing that the Government alone cannot lead the country out of the economic crisis. If political leaders refuse once again the consent requested by the prime-minister, can you exclude the possibility of early elections?
PASOK has a powerful and undoubted majority in the parliament. No one could challenge the Government’s political legitimacy.
We pursue constant cooperation with the social stakeholders, since we are well aware that this project will not be successful if we do not have the widest possible majority of the citizens, and especially the healthiest and most creative forces of the Greek society. It is them that the Prime-minister turns to when he speaks of consent. Those who insist on maintaining a climate of early elections are in fact undermining the national endeavor.
New political correlations are being created lately. Do you think they respond to the political and social requests of our times? Do you consider that time has come in our country, too, for coalition governments? Which political forces could PASOK cooperate with in the context of a future government prospect?
The Greek people has elected and empowered George Papandreou and PASOK, and demanded that the country’s course be changed. Citizens have invested in hope and wait that their expectations are met. Coalition governments remain as a possibility in the theoretical discussions held in several economic circles. And they certainly do not serve the interests of the people.
As for the new parties … let time and citizens judge and evaluate them.