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Editorial

A Prime Ministerial Statement that Will Go Down in History

In the almost four years that Kyriakos Mitsotakis has been Greece’s Prime Minister, he has faced one crisis after another.

And these were not ‘ordinary’ crises, the kind that every prime minister faces sooner or later during his or her term in office.

We are talking about crises that – if Kyriakos Mitsotakis did not deal with them successfully – could have sunk the country. Crises such as, I must note, among others, the coronavirus and Turkey’s threats of war.

Fortunately for the country and the nation, Kyriakos Mitsotakis was prime minister during this period and he handled the crises in the best possible way.

The national tragedy of the railway accident, however, is different. While he bore no responsibility for the coronavirus and the Turkish threat, the same cannot be said in this case, after ruling the country for that many years. To say otherwise convinces no one and would constitute sheer disrespect to the memory of the dead.

From the first moment of the unspeakable tragedy, the Prime Minister rushed to Tempe, the place of death, where the camera caught him looking devastated.

He immediately appointed – probably his closest assistant – a new Minister of Transport, declared a state of national mourning, and, of course, during this time of mourning, he kept his silence, but without stopping to work feverishly.

On Sunday, he made a statement of major importance, unprecedented for a Greek Prime Minister – it would be good if everyone read it.

What sets it apart, what makes it, in my opinion, of historic importance, is the acceptance of responsibility for the tragedy. His courage to discuss bluntly, as well as simply and honestly with his fellow citizens, the men and women of Greece, both the incident as well as the causes of the accident. His sense of responsibility is striking.

However, it is better to quote it for you so you may draw your own conclusions:

“Today I would like to write about the unspeakable tragedy in Tempe. Without wooden words, without repeating trivialities. To make an attempt to put my thoughts in order and my feelings into words.

And I start with the obvious. As Prime Minister, I owe everyone, but above all the relatives of the victims, a great ‘I AM SORRY’. Both personally and in the name of all those who have governed the country for years. Because, indeed, in the Greece of 2023, it is not possible for two trains to run on opposite sides of the same track without anyone noticing.

We cannot, we do not want to, and we must not hide behind ‘human error’. If the telecommunications project had been completed, this accident would have been practically impossible. The fact that the Digital Control System will be fully operational within the next few months is no excuse. On the contrary. It makes my pain even greater that we weren’t able to complete it before the evil occurrence.

…I will immediately ask the European Commission and friendly countries for their assistance in terms of expertise so that we can finally have modern trains. And I will fight for additional [European] Community funding to ensure that the existing network is maintained and upgraded quickly.

…We all know that the country’s railways are deeply flawed. They are perhaps the extreme expression of a Greece that does not suit us and that we want to leave behind.

I know that many people today will remember the phrase of one of my predecessors that ‘this is Greece.’ But no, it is not only that. There is another Greece – out there – that gives us hope, faith and strength.

…We saw the face of a better Greece… also in the Greeks who rushed together to give blood. But also in the youngsters who demonstrated silently and peacefully with the slogan ‘it’s the bad country’s fault’, holding a candle. A slogan whose truth hurts us all.

Personally, I am in politics to change this ‘bad country’, this old Greece that hurts us. That’s what I’m trying to do, every day. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don’t. I know well, however, how much better we can make our country if we sweep away the remnants of the past that are holding us back. And I will continue to fight for the Greece we deserve.”

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