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Politics

Greek Society Wants the Truth and Demands Justice for Tempi Rail Crash, Tsipras says

ATHENS – On Friday, main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras met with rail worker unions to discuss the circumstances surrounding the rail accident at Tempi and how to address the issues and deficiencies that led to the tragedy. In his post-meeting statements, he vehemently criticized efforts to assign blame for the accident, arguing that this amounted to a cover-up.

“This tragedy was preventable, and there is no excuse,” Tsipras declared, pointing out that rail workers had repeatedly alerted the political leadership to the dangers, through strikes and written warnings.

He denounced the government’s position, citing the former transport minister’s statement in parliament that “those who talk about safety issues should be ashamed.” He also noted that the government had responded to strikes that raised safety concerns by having them declared illegal through the courts.

“This tragedy is not a matter of political confrontation, but a challenge that society as a whole must face together against those who seek to hide the truth,” Tsipras asserted, adding: “Denying responsibility, spreading blame, and offsetting disasters are attempts to cover up the truth.”

Greek society “wants the truth and demands justice,” he said, noting that the government was oscillating between blaming a single individual, the station master alone, and saying that responsibility was collective and therefore belonged to no one in particular.

“It’s a pendulum of denying responsibility, from individual to collective…” Tsipras added, emphasizing that Greek society wants to know how and why the accident happened, but more importantly, what will be done from now on to prevent such an accident from happening again.

The head of the train drivers’ union, Kostas Genidounias, said the union would not accept a verdict of human error and noted that this position was shared by the European Federation of Train Drivers, which was taking appropriate action at a European level to ensure that the main responsibilities were not overlooked.

PM Mitsotakis: Everything will be done with absolute transparency

During his meeting with the President of the Hellenic Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, on Friday, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stated that the government will work with absolute transparency and maximum speed to deliver justice regarding the tragic accident in Tempi.

“In this effort, I will not hesitate to utilize any available European aid. I have requested the European Railway Authority to prepare a report with recommendations on how we can improve and make it public from the moment it is delivered. On the other hand, we must take immediate corrective actions to enhance the safety of our trains, as my announcements yesterday have shown. Trains will resume operation as soon as possible with maximum safety, having two stationmasters at each station and shift. Additionally, the electronic management system, which has been pending since 2014, will be promptly completed within the next few months. However, I believe that this incident has highlighted the significant challenges we still face in modernizing the state. It is a continuous struggle against embedded ideas and mindsets that originate from the past.”

President of the Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou met with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Friday 10 March 2023.
(GIORGOS KONTARINIS/EUROKINISSI)

“We have shown that as a country, we can win many of these battles. It is unacceptable to have modern technological systems, such as the 112 emergency alert system that can warn every Greek in the country about an impending natural disaster, while at the same time some stationmasters cannot communicate with each other. Therefore, this conflict with what one might call a profoundly anachronistic state becomes urgent. I think that it will be a significant challenge for the country as a whole, not just in the next period, to genuinely modernize and become like Europe everywhere, not just in certain sectors. I have always been involved in this battle, and I know that it comes with both victories and difficult moments like this, and that’s why I will keep fighting. However, this is no longer a lonely battle; I believe it is a fight that is mobilizing many healthy forces in Greek society and within the state apparatus that demand a better state with more expertise, efficiency, transparency, meritocracy, and evaluation. And for all of this, I will personally continue to fight.”

In her statement, Greek President Sakellaropoulou expressed, “Our country is facing a tragedy. Our collective trauma is deep and indescribable. There are no words to ease the pain of those lost. As a society, we mourn, we are angry, and we lose trust in our institutions. We cannot ignore this anger and frustration, but must channel it productively. We feel both responsible and ashamed. There must be full accountability and cooperation to prevent such a tragedy from happening again. We must eradicate the flaws and leave behind the aspects of Greece that tarnish our country’s image. This is not only a responsibility to those who were unfairly lost, but to our entire nation.”

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