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Politics

Minister of Justice Konstantinos Tsiaras Discusses the Diaspora, Reforms in Greece

BOSTON – The Minister of Justice of Greece Konstantinos Tsiaras, who was a Grand Marshal at the Boston’s Greek parade on Sunday, May 1, in an interview with The National Herald spoke highly about the Greek-American Community of Boston and New England and discussed reforms being undertaken in Greece that are of interest to the Hellenic diaspora.

The complete interview follows:

TNH: What are your thoughts on attending the Boston and New England parade and of the Boston community in general?

Konstantinos Tsiaras: After nearly 10 years since my last visit to Boston in my capacity as Deputy Foreign Minister, I am back in Massachusetts representing Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the 1821 anniversary celebrations. For me personally, these events are coupled with emotions, as I have the opportunity to meet again with personalities of the Greek diaspora, with whom we have systematically cooperated in the past, building the close ties that the Greek communities in America maintain to this day with metropolitan Greece. However, this year’s expatriates’ events coincide with the preparations for the Greek Prime Minister’s visit to the United States and his meeting with President Biden at the White House. Given, therefore, that the Hellenic Diaspora has always functioned as a multiplier of our national power, the Greek communities undoubtedly constitute a huge national diplomatic asset for the Greek government.

TNH: What are you going to offer Greek-Americans apart from just good wishes and words?

KT: I have personally witnessed the disappointment of the expatriates at the great promises made by representatives of the Greek government, which were broken before they even crossed the Atlantic to return home. I will therefore avoid ‘big talk’, especially a few days before the Prime Minister’s visit to the United States. He will have personal meetings with expatriate organizations. For my part, I can only guarantee that I will work for the Greek expatriate community in the direction dictated by the Prime Minister for the recognition of their rights and their contributions to the motherland.

TNH: How seriously does the government and the Greek political world in general take the Greek communities, given the grotesque process regarding expatriate voting?

KT: Despite the repeated initiatives of the [current] government for the institutionalization of the equal voting rights for expatriates in Greek national elections, unfortunately the opposition’s scales were more weighted by petty party and electoral calculations. Two great opportunities were sacrificed on the altar of expediency. The expatriates rightly feel betrayed. The conditions for the restoration of the rights of the expatriates, however, are ripe. Hopefully, the opposition will soon mature as well.

TNH: Will you have contacts with American officials in Boston or in the United States in general, and with whom?

KT: The excellent events organized by the Greek Community in Boston will be attended by important personalities from the political scene of the State of Massachusetts, and the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. One the sidelines of these events, I will have the opportunity to discuss with many stakeholders issues of mutual interest. I will also speak with representatives of expatriate organizations that are active and prominent in all areas of political, economic, and social life in the United States.

The Minister of Justice of Greece Konstantinos Tsiaras speaks with former governor of Massachusetts and past U.S. presidential candidate Michael Dukakis shortly before the start of Boston’s parade. (Photo TNH/Theodore Kalmoukos)

TNH: Are the amendments that have been made to the Greek Criminal Code sufficient to enhance the sense of security of citizens?

KT: As you may know, the Codes are the most important tools in the hands of judges and prosecutors to deliver justice and protect the rights of citizens. The amendments to the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure attempted a comprehensive overhaul of the controversial provisions introduced by the previous government. The aim of the new provisions is to consolidate the sense of security of citizens, which had been disturbed by the low sentences and early releases provided for in the new Criminal Code of SYRIZA.

Of course, the codes must be implemented in the long term, creating legal certainty. However, this stability must not be at the expense of the need to modernize the provisions of the Codes, which must keep pace with developments in science and society.

For this reason, we have chosen to form a permanent standing scientific committee for monitoring the implementation of the Criminal Code. This committee continues its work in an independent manner, analyzes international scientific and jurisprudential developments, and systematically monitors the needs of the criminal justice system in order to recommend – in a scientifically sound manner – additional interventions if necessary.

TNH: On the occasion of recent heinous crimes, many people believe that the sentences are too short, that justice is not delivered. Beyond your institutional role, what is your personal view?

KT: I fully understand the indignation of Greek citizens, who are often overwhelmed by the sense of impunity. However, the legislative process is not determined by the personal views of the Minister of Justice. It requires a comprehensive and systematic scientific approach. This task has been entrusted by the government to the Standing Committee on the Monitoring of the Criminal Code. In any case, international experience in advanced judicial systems, including the American one, has shown that the tightening of the sentences is a necessary condition for fostering the sense of security among citizens against criminal actions. It is not a sufficient condition, though, for preventing and suppressing crime itself.

TNH: What would you like to change at once, if possible tomorrow morning, in the field of justice in Greece?

Tsiaras: The pace of delivering justice. Of course, I have no illusions that the pace of justice will improve by waving a magic wand. However, we are working systematically to put in place a series of tools that will improve the pace of justice, without compromising the quality of judicial decisions. The digitalization of the judiciary, with the upgrading of integrated case management systems, the development of new electronic tools and applications such as digital trials and electronic dockets, the expansion of the institution of pilot trials, the judicial police, alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation and international arbitration, the continuous training of judicial officers and court officials in new scientific fields are the components of a modern policy that we have been implementing since 2019

TNH: In about a year there will be elections in Greece (if there are no early elections). Could you give us the three main reasons why the government deserves to be re-elected?

KT: Elections will be held at the end of the four-year term, as the Prime Minister himself has repeatedly stated. Since the beginning of Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ administration until today, we have effectively managed a series of successive crises while at the same time we brought forward numerous reforms, finally proving that the state can stand by the citizens. We have limited the impact of the pandemic, we have effectively protected human life and citizens’ property in the recent megafires, we have swiftly compensated the victims of the extraordinarily severe weather events that hit our country, and we have successfully responded to the challenges in the Evros region, protecting our national borders. This government, through all these difficulties, has managed not only to ‘intercept threats’ but at the same time it has created a modern model of crisis management, without suspending its reform program. This government has shown that it can face up to difficult problems and that it responds with action to the challenges of tomorrow, especially in today’s unstable and uncertain international environment. We are confident that under Mitsotakis’ administration Greece has delivered. And we trust the judgment of our people, who understand the importance of effective leadership and of a robust government that can reliably shape ‘the tomorrow’ of our country.

 

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