Wildfires: Looking at Greece, deciding about Europe

Greece is a country that has been at the forefront of many of Europe’s most critical crises: economic (2008-today), migrant (2014-today), and environmental.

It is a telling case study, as the approach of the European Union to each of these political challenges has unveiled it further for what it truly is: an authoritarian and cynical economic cartel for the rich and powerful. The promise for European joint prosperity and solidarity remains unfulfilled to this day, and will remain so until the European Union is democratised.

Following the disastrous floods on the German-Belgian border, Europe is now facing another catastrophic effect of climate collapse: wildfires are ravaging Southern Europe, hitting some of the countries most weakened by Europe’s chronic inability (and unwillingness) to radically deal with the issues it is called to face.

Below we number five major blunders and cynical moves by the Greek Prime Minister, which constitute the rule – rather than the exception – for how the European Establishment deals with any crisis:

1. Priority to Property rather than the Environment

“Our priority is always the protection of human life. This is followed by safeguarding property, the natural environment and critical infrastructure. ” [Kyriakos Mitsotakis]

The head of the New Democracy government in Greece, perhaps without even realising it, confessed that for him and his government, “property” is their first priority (which, when it is publicly owned, is usually subjected to auctions and privitisation) and then the environment and (“critical”) public infrastructure.

DiEM25 unreservedly condemns the cynical confession of Kyriakos Mitsotakis who, at a time when the younger generation is facing environmental dystopia, fails to understand – even when engaged in battle against a side-effect of climate change – that property is devoid of any value when the environment collapses.

2. Investing in Repression at the expense of Protection

“We ought to… show our gratitude [to firefighters], recognizing that sometimes we ask them to do things that are simply beyond their capabilities. ” [Kyriakos Mitsotakis]

The Prime Minister spoke as if the capabilities of the Fire Brigade are independent of the means available to them from the government. He spoke as if the problem was their capabilities, and not the obvious fact that the austerity-serving governments (at the instruction of their European and IMF masters), including the current one, left the Fire Brigade helpless after they had first – criminally – assigned forest firefighting to them and financially depleted the Forestry Departments. Every victory won by the Fire Brigade in Greece is won against impossible odds and despite of the sabotage inflicted on them by their European “partners” and their own government.

With this unfortunate expression, Mr Mitsotakis tried to pass over his personal, criminal choice to leave the Fire Brigade defenceless, since the current and the former government (SYRIZA-New Democracy) “burdened” it with forest firefighting, while investing huge resources in the Greek police, making Greece the country with the third highest ratio of law-enforcement agents per citizen in Europe. Where are the necessary recruitments in the Fire Brigade and Forestry? Where are the new resources? Why is only one Beriev Be200 (the jet firefighter capable of dropping 12 tons of water) operating? If the EU and the IMF are still controlling Greece’s expenditures, then why was Greece allowed to by 18 Rafale fighter jets from France, with money that could cover the purchase of over 50 Beriev firefighter jets? Where are the reinforcements for the National Health System and, worst of all, the Forestry Service – which the austerity-serving governments have, in effect, abolished?

Mitsotakis referred to the “battles… that we lost” without any admittance as to why we have lost them. While he, and the rest of Europe, prioritise the suppression over the protection of citizens, then these battles we continue to be lost, every time, regardless of the bravery and self-sacrifice of the people who fight them.

3. Supporting the victims by supporting the…bankers

“The properties will be restored… ” [Kyriakos Mitsotakis]

In their desperation, listening to the Prime Minister, the small and medium-sized fire victim businesses are justified in hoping that their houses will be rebuilt with the help of the state. Until they learn the truth from the lips of Interior Minister Makis Voridis, who referred to “…favorable terms of borrowing with the guarantee of the state for the restoration of the damage caused to houses!”

As if the small and medium-sized businesses of Greece are not already drowning in debt! Without shame, the New Democracy (ND) government chooses once again to impose new debts, in favour of the bankers, on citizens that the State has failed to protect from an expected natural phenomenon.

Will the Prime Minister say what will be done with these new loans, announced by Mr. Voridis as “aid” for the fire victims, if and when they cannot be repaid? Will they also be sold to the coffers of their inner-circles? What about the loans of the pandemic victims who may have escaped the fires? We do not expect an answer, of course.

In summary, Mitsotakis and his government has once again proven that the state of the 21st century does not serve its citizens, but its capital: the government is here to protect the interests of bankers, not the people.

4. The burnt land will soon be hotels and shopping centres

“The houses are being rebuilt and the trees will grow again…” [Kyriakos Mitsotakis]

Mr Mitsotakis pretends not to know that in Greece trees tend not to grow again, precisely because houses are being “rebuilt” where the forests used to be!

“And of course the burnt areas will be immediately declared reforested areas, as, after all, the Constitution requires. ” [Kyriakos Mitsotakis]

Precisely because the Constitution has become a rag in the hands of the austerity-serving governments of ND-PASOK-SYRIZA, with the result that the burnt areas of the past are now multi-family houses, maisonettes, shopping malls, golf courses, etc., our electoral wing in Greece, MeRA25, had submitted a simple amendment to the constitution that prohibits the change of use of burnt land (from forested to urban) for 30 years. And how did the government react? It rejected it without comment, confirming its determination to turn a blind eye to the building of the burnt areas.

5. The government of oil-mining & pipelines keeps silent on Climate Change

“We have a duty to shield our country against the reality of Climate Change. ” [Kyriakos Mitsotakis]

A prime minister who promotes fossil fuel extraction and considers pipelines as “development” projects is not a prime minister who is entitled to invoke the fight against Climate Change.

A Prime Minister who, in order to appease the nationalists of his party, talks about shielding the country from Climate Change (as if Greece inhabits some separate environment to that of other nations around it) does not have the right to remain Prime Minister.

A Prime Minister who tries to blame Climate Change for his own failures, which are a result of the austerity-serving policies, has no right to remain Prime Minister.

Our electoral wing in Greece, MeRA25, is the only party in Parliament that condemns every mining project and every pipeline, and that mobilizes daily against local contractor crimes against the environment. It will not allow Mr. Mitsotakis and Mr Tsipras, the most beloved Greek Prime Ministers of Exxon-Mobil, Total and domestic contractors, to shed crocodile tears over Climate Change – while their choices act as fuel for the fire that is burning the planet.

Looking at Greece, deciding about Europe

The Coordinating Collective of DiEM25 supports all those who have either been thrown into the battle with the flames or are in danger from them across Europe and beyond. While the fires rage, the members of DiEM25 stand in solidarity with the people and the animals that are suffering.

At the same time, because this disaster is not “natural” but the result of unnatural, classist and oligarchic policies, the Coordinating Collective calls upon DiEM25 members and all progressive citizens to unite behind the following eight conclusions:

  1. Overturn the mentality that the priority is property and not the ecosystem that keeps us alive, or the public goods without which we are doomed to suffer at the hands of the rich and the elite
  2. Invest in protecting, not repressing, citizens – condemning the hypocrisy of governments that put “new locks on a burning house”
  3. Abolish our servitude to austerity, instead of strengthening it: we condemn the hypocrisy of governments that shed tears for burnt houses while they are preparing to serve them up to bankers as collateral
  4. Push for the immediate empowerment of Forestry Departments around Europe, and make those who are best placed to help us deal with Climate Change responsible for doing so
  5. Resolve to keep all fossil fuels in the bowels of the earth as a minimal contribution to the fight against Climate Change
  6. Work together for the overthrow of any government that pretends to combat phenomena that its policies reinforce
  7. Highlight the complicity of a European Union which intervenes to close down banks for the benefit of lenders and bankers, and is ready to make grand statements and wag the finger at some, but turns a blind eye when Nature and Europeans burn, drown and suffocate because of the austerity it enforces with an iron fist
  8. Stand with the Progressive International, which represents a unique opportunity to internationalise and coordinate the universal human struggle to end the exploitative model that has brought us, as a species, to the brink of destruction

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