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Economy

Greece’s Wildfires Disaster Plan Stymied by Bureaucratic Obstacles

ATHENS – Greece’s plan to deal with more wildfires after the disastrous 2021 summer that saw blazes rage around the country during a brutal heat wave are being blocked by the country’s notorious bureaucracy, said Minister of Climate Crisis and Civil Protection Christos Stylianides.

He told Parliament that efforts to prevent and respond to fires that are common during the summer have run up against obstacles, said Kathimerini.

“We start doing something and we constantly find walls in front of us,” he said during a joint briefing with Deputy Minister of Civil Protection Vangelis Tournas of a special parliamentary committee on the policies and actions for dealing with natural disasters.

That was where he presented the Aegis program that’s being aided with 1.7 billion euros ($1.88 billion) by the European Union Recovery and Resilience Facility and the European Investment Bank.

He insisted that there is “a real opportunity for the country to strengthen civil protection” but said Greece’s slow as molasses civil servant sector is in the way and taking its time to deal with it.

“We made an effort, we won the approval of the European Commission and we are stuck here,” he said, citing several examples, such as the procedures for approving contracts and other procedures.

“We will not go for direct assignments, but the procedures must be speeded up. Institutions that were supposed to function in order to speed up the procedures ended up functioning as quasi-judicial bodies, causing delays,” Stylianides said.

He also raised the issue of delays in finding the locations where the 13 Regional Operational Centers of Civil Protection will be set up.

“While the sites have been found, problems are arising due to a lack of a land registry,” he said, while also pointing to the delays in the supply of new radars for the National Meteorological Service, the report added.

Despite the troubles, he said that the state will be ready for any fires this summer after the New Democracy government was criticized for the 2021 response and admitted shortcomings, also blaming climate change.

“Maybe, for the first time in decades, there will be coordination and common ground,” he added after the government was the first to bar building on burned lands to deter arsonists and developers.

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