George A. Papandreou (born June 16, 1952) is Former Prime Minister of Greece, current President of Socialist International, a Member of the Hellenic Parliament and former President of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK). He served as the 11th Prime Minister of Greece from October 6, 2009 - November 11, 2011, after PASOK’s victory in the October 2009 national elections.

George A. Papandreou

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Address to the Greek people

“Fellow citizens,

This summer, our nation has suffered many wounds. Deep wounds for Hellenism and our history.

Injured families have lost their loved ones, their houses, and everything they owned. I am sure that I speak for every Greek citizen when I express my unconditional support and solidarity to all those who have suffered from this catastrophe.

We are deeply saddened. We feel humiliated by the inability of the state to protect the lives of our fellow citizens.

Our forests are devastated and all life within them has been destroyed. So has our agricultural production. The local economy has been wiped out, an economy that has sustained these areas for centuries. Areas of extraordinary natural beauty, history and tradition have been lost.

We all feel despair in the face of the greatest environmental catastrophe in modern Greek history.

The ancient symbols of Greek history have been wounded. The fire at Ancient Olympia touched the hearts of people around the world. Olympia symbolizes the eternal spirit of our culture, of good sportsmanship, Olympic Truce and peace.

These wounds cut deep into all our hearts.

Unfortunately, at this time of national tragedy, the Greek government has proven itself utterly incompetent. It has failed to manage the forest fire crisis, just as it has failed to manage every crisis it has faced during its four-year tenure.

Today, our immediate priority is that no more lives be lost, no more houses and livelihoods destroyed. We must save whatever we can of our beautiful natural environment. We must save our historic monuments, the symbols of Hellenism. We must mobilize all our forces for the urgent reconstruction of our nation.

Sadly, this government is preoccupied with other concerns. It claims that the fires are the result of an organized plot by arsonists. The truth is that arsonists exist and have always existed; and all Greeks demand that they are brought to justice and punished.

However, it is also true that historically, in our country, organized arsonists are profiteers, who seek to appropriate the public wealth of our country to further their own illegal interests. Those who seek to illegally encroach upon our forests, our beaches, and our islands.

It is also true that these people are encouraged by the government’s devious attempts to change Article 24 of our Constitution, which protects our forests. They are encouraged by the government’s attempts to legalize unauthorized buildings that encroach upon our natural heritage. They are encouraged by the government’s legislation to allow the over-development of our coastline and islands.

This government is directly responsible for pushing through all these policies, despite the unanimous objection of all opposition parties.

Today, I want to warn the Greek people of a new direction the government is taking, which threatens our democracy and our institutions.

Instead of trying to heal the wounds of our nation and people, this government is opening up dangerous, new political lesions.

Instead of dealing with the crisis that is affecting our nation in a serious and responsible manner, even at the eleventh hour, the government is cultivating fear, insecurity, extremism and discord.

Since the beginning of summer, high level government officials have both directly and indirectly been spreading conspiracy theories about a plot against the nation, with PASOK and the other opposition parties as ringleaders.

The Minister of Public Order spoke yesterday of “asymmetrical threats”, implying terrorist attacks. Government ministers have directly accused PASOK of arson in the international media. And last Friday, the Prime Minister himself adopted these theories by implication.

These asymmetrical threats are asymmetrical nonsense.

But when the theories of the Minister of Public Order are adopted by the Prime Minister, they are dangerous for our democratic institutions.

With its inaccuracies and untruths, the government is creating a sickening climate that recalls dark moments in our history.

The questions raised by the statements made by government ministers and the Prime Minister are of the utmost concern:

If Greece faces a terrorist threat that the government has known about for 20 days, why haven’t the President and the leaders of the opposition parties been informed?

If Greece faces a terrorist threat, why did the government reject my call for a meeting of all political leaders under the auspices of the President?

If the government knew about a national threat since the beginning of the summer, why have they left the nation unprotected?

If the government knew of an asymmetrical threat, why was Parliament dissolved and an election hastily called in August?

If there are no facts, if there is no reliable evidence, then this “asymmetrical threat” is no more than a pretext for the government to cover up the paralysis of the state, its own failure to prevent this national tragedy. A national tragedy that constitutes a crime against the nation, against the Greek people, against the environment, and against future generations.

I call on the Prime Minister to make public all the facts in his possession that justify the charges he has levelled. I call on the Prime Minister to publicize this information immediately.

If there is a conspiracy, the Greek people have a right to know. For it is the Greek people who are the best defenders of our democracy, of our security and our democratic institutions.

If the Prime Minister does not provide the facts that he claims to have, then he himself is jeopardizing our democratic institutions. The Prime Minister is damaging our nation’s global reputation once again. With his statements, Greece is once again described as a haven for terrorists, which weakens our nation weak and damages our tourist industry.

We cannot build our nation’s future by cultivating fear. We cannot promote unity and self-confidence by spreading theories that divide our nation.

This is not the time to be pointing the finger at scapegoats. This is the time for national mobilization. It is time for us to face the truth about what has really happened. It is time for us to heal our wounds with compassion and solidarity for those who have suffered the most.

The most experienced members of our party are currently drafting a plan for the social, economic and environmental reconstruction of the nation. Within the next few days, I will announce my commitments to provide for the victims of this devastating tragedy.

These commitments will be a solid foundation for the reconstruction of our afflicted nation, based on a new model of development, with the environment, history and education at its heart. A new model of development that ensures confidence and security. That puts a crippled nation back on its feet based on rules, principles, meritocracy and transparency. That brings back hope, prospects, and a smile on the face of every Greek citizen”.

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