PM Mitsotakis apologises for hardship suffered by people in the snow
In opening remarks to Wednesday's online cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis began by offering a "personal and sincere apology to our fellow citizens that underwent hardship for many hours, trapped in Attiki Odos".
"There are very clear responsibilities of the concessionaire for the way that it handled this latest snowstorm. These will be fully investigated based on existing laws but also the terms included in the relevant contracts with the public sector," Mitsotakis stressed.
He noted that private companies that manage critical infrastructure for not inconsiderable profits have certain obligations, chief of which is to keep the roads in their care open.
This was the reason for the decision to immediately give 2,000 euros to the drivers that were trapped on Attiki Odos and to pay compensation to the TRAINOSE train passengers that were stranded, the prime minister added.
"I note that this is the first time that the state has taken action to provide relief through this process to our fellow citizens that suffered damages," he said, pointing out that the provision for compensation was added to concession contracts in a law passed by the present government, irrespective of any private claims or public-sector actions in this regard.
Mitsotakis also conceded that the problems were not restricted to Attiki Odos and promised a thorough investigation of what went wrong, while thanking the armed forces and emergency services personnel for their efforts to assist the people trapped in the snow, as well as the repair crews struggling to restore power to areas where power lines were down.
"Every tree that severs a medium-voltage power line is a unique challenge, especially when these people have to contend with half a metre of snow. For the very few areas still without power, I ask the citizens' patience and understanding. I think in this area we learned our lessons from 'Medea' and managed to restore power in a very short space of time," he said.
While the infrastructure of a Mediterranean country was not always adapted to deal with heavy snow, Mitsotakis said, he also admitted that "it is equally true that the state mechanism is not yet at the state of readiness that phenomena of such great intensity demand. This primarily concerns the coordination between all those involved: the state, local government, regions, municipalities and private individuals."
One clear lesson from the unsuccessful management of the 'Elpis' snowstorm was that the heads of all these structures should be together in times of crisis, in order to act and make decisions jointly, the prime minister added, promising immediate changes in this direction.
This would avoid problems such as lack of communication, delays in making decision but also attempts to lay blame elsewhere, he said.
The prime minister made it clear that, even though the phenomena were unusually intense, this would not be cited as an excuse:
"There were mistakes and shortcomings that must be fixed. For all these reasons we created the new climate crisis ministry. I will continue to support this choice, strengthening the structures and their capabilities further. And by ensuring that the operation of the ministry is made more effective with better cooperation with all the other ministries."
"We have proved that we have the courage of admit our mistakes and the willingness to learn from them and become better. We learn, therefore, and press ahead," he concluded.