With the fires burning uncontrollably for days, the foundations of the Greek political order were significantly shaken.
And when these are added to the other recent national crises, such as the Turkish threat to the country's sovereignty, as well as the pandemic, with all the painful effects it has on health and tourism, then it must be said that the country is facing a diverse and deep crisis.
Fires are not uncommon in Greece. They occur almost annually. But some of them are so destructive to human life and property that they are strongly imprinted in the historical memory of our people. And although their consequences may not be immediate, they are manifested in various ways and darken the future of the country.
Like what happened with the fires in Mati in 2018 with dozens dead and the destruction of its environs.
The magnitude of the current fire disaster in various parts of the country with a focus on Evia is enormous. Houses were burned. Entire forests were burned. A way of life was destroyed.
The pain, the despair, is bottomless.
Neither words nor deeds can make up for what was burned. The images of burned things that encapsulate memories are horrific: the family table around which the family gathered. The little girl's favorite dress. The computer that included the daily diary and the incomplete novel that will never be published.
The unusually high temperatures that for days turned the country into an unbearable furnace that dried out everything made the coming of the fire almost inevitable. Temperatures ranged above 100 degrees for days.
It does not take much to start a fire. The carelessness of a hiker, not necessarily the criminal hand of an arsonist, is all it takes to get it started.
But to extinguish it is very difficult: That requires the focus of the capabilities of the state on human resources and equipment, as well as a systematic and organized battle over many days to control it and then extinguish it.
And, unfortunately, under the conditions that prevailed and based on the human resources and the means that the state has, it took days to control the fires, with the result that the magnitude of the catastrophe that took place was huge.
And as is customary in politics, even before the fires are completely extinguished, the road race begins for the political exploitation of the catastrophe that took place.
Undoubtedly, it would be useful to have a dialogue about what happened, to analyze the decisions that were taken, in order to draw conclusions and learn lessons that will help us deal more effectively with such situations in the future.
A discussion is in fact taking place, led by the government and specifically by the Prime Minister, who shouldered the burden of dealing with the fire.
For the first time in the political history of Greece, the Prime Minister dared to apologize to the people for the weaknesses of the state apparatus.
As for the leader of the official opposition, the need to appear responsible during a national tragedy compelled him to avoid a frontal attack on the government and to appear ready to cooperate for the good of the country.
And really, how could he do otherwise given the history of what happened in Mati during his prime ministership?
In addition, I underline a phrase the Prime Minister spoke during the – admittedly too long – press conference he gave, which deserves more attention than it was given.
Not only did the current government not receive anything that would be useful in fighting the fire from the previous government, he said, but they did not even receive a functioning ‘state.’
With this in mind, any objective observer will come to the following conclusions:
First, that whatever was humanly possible was done based on the means and the state apparatus available.
Second, that the Prime Minister moved according to a plan and focused his strategy on the protection of human life. Undoubtedly, mistakes were made in the implementation of this strategy, but they did their best.
And third, that there should have been better results, something that the Prime Minister acknowledged by apologizing.
However, we must call a spade a spade – the state apparatus is the ‘sick man’ of Greece.
This is because it has been founded for decades on the basis of political expediency, often with appointments to key positions of people who are ignorant and unsuitable and therefore unable to carry out their mission effectively. For that reason, the means available do not meet the requirements of the country.
But it would be illogical to expect that it was possible for Kyriakos Mitsotakis to correct the situation and overcome all the weaknesses of the state in the mere two years he has been in power.
Nevertheless, it must be said, however, that the government as a whole did not function satisfactorily. Key ministers disappeared – like ghosts.
So, because, as it is said, no crisis should be wasted, our wish and hope is that this crisis and the expected negative consequences will create the opportunity that the country needs for drawing the right conclusions, i.e. for the elimination of waste, for modernization, and a change of mentality so that the emphasis will be on meritocracy, the fight against corruption, and the liberation of the potential of young people.
Otherwise we will be dragged from crisis to crisis. But for how long?