Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with great joy that I am here in Thessalonica today, the city which will be attracting the limelight in a few days in the entire Greece. I also stand at the area of the International Exhibition of Thessalonica, which will once again become the pole of attraction for all the entrepreneurial, social and cultural quests and perspectives. I find myself here in this the place where new projects are being developed for the future, where the healthy, vivid and productive forces meet and work together.
And I feel all the more splendid today because I have the pleasure to announce the restructuring of the Thessalonica General Police Division.
In full accordance with our commitments before coming to power, we are currently at the process of enhancing and restructuring our services in Thessalonica, aiming at providing better security and more peaceful life to the citizens.
Having studied thoroughly for quite a few months the needs and special conditions prevailing in each Municipality and having taken seriously into account the views of local agents, we finally are in the position to give life to a long standing demand of both the Police Services and the local society.
The current restructuring comes to complete a series of other initiatives we have developed, such as:
- The General Division of VIP Security
- The Division of Special Forces
- The Attica and Thessalonica Division for Aliens
- The Highway Traffic Police
- The restructuring of the Attica General Police Division
- The creation of the Centre for Security Studies (CSS) and other initiatives, with which we have covered up to ¾ of the total restructuring plan for the entire territory.
Today΄s reinforcement and reorganization of the Police Services comes to fill a long standing gap. It is a necessity that became all the more obvious firstly, from the implementation of the “Kapodistrias” law on Local Authorities and secondly, from the new situation regarding the new forms of crime, which have been undermining at the international scale the feeling of security for the past years.
However, I would like to point out that the restructuring we are putting into place today consists of another significant dimension.
Let me explain myself better: No one ignores the fact that the area of the Balkans presents significant particularities today, thus giving rise to a feeling of insecurity regarding their future and their development. These uncertainties are not only limited to the economic development and the political institutions of the Balkans but they also extend to the field of security. Today, the notion of security cannot be solely defined by strictly geopolitical or military terms. When we use the term “security” today in our society, we mean a lot more than these things. We also include issues related to economic development, technology, human rights, equal opportunities, protection of the environment and in general, all values promoting human well-being.
Under these circumstances and in order for the countries of the Balkans and the greater South East Europe to feel safe, it is quite reasonable to seek security through the cooperation with the “others”. The others are us, the successfully tried West European institutions; in this context, our country and in particular, Thessalonica rises at the centre of this effort of regional cooperation.
The suggestions put forward by Thessalonica today together with other initiatives give rise to new information and create a “security road map” for all the countries of the region. Our plan for Thessalonica is totally inspired by our vision and is coherent with concrete principles and targets, so as to pave the way for greater regional security. It can turn our country in general and Thessalonica in particular, into a “bridge” connecting the whole area to Europe. Our strategy for the greater area of the Balkans, based on regional cooperation, is based on the following three concepts: democracy, security, growth.
We are all aware that globalization contributes to the transmutation of traditional forms of crime, thus creating a new, international configuration of organized crime. The borders of a country do no longer rise high enough to obstruct new forms of crime. Violent crimes are increasing, the use and dealing of drugs is expanding, criminals are becoming more ruthless. In addition to that, we have witnessed many cases of populations that have moved, a fact that has created significant problems. Xenophobic reactions have given a serious blow to the social network in many European countries, with a negative impact to the sense of security of the citizens.
In this particularly unfavorable atmosphere, it is required for the Police Force to constantly confirm its abilities every single day. In these times of speedy political and economic developments, the role and the mission of the Police Force is becoming more and more difficult. This is why it is of paramount importance to proceed to a constant organizational and operational restructuring and therefore, make the Police Force adapt to the new domestic and international reality.
It is, indeed, true that the crime indices in our country are lower than the respective ones in the other countries of Europe and that makes Greece one of the safest countries in the world. However, we should not feel reassured because the challenge of dealing with crime and providing the security of the citizens is not bound by a time limit.
The organizational and operational modernization of the Services of the Ministry of Public Order constitutes a basic axis of our policy, from the first day of the new Government, not to mention the need to make the best out of the human factor in the Security Forces, providing meritocracy and incentives so as for them to maximize their efforts.
It is obvious that preserving public order and security is directly related to the means and infrastructure made available for the Police Force. Nevertheless, these means and infrastructure have as a prerequisite the economic robustness of the country. At the same time, security is a public good, a precondition and a factor of economic growth.
As far as the citizens? security is concerned, it is the most precious social and public good and it is the biggest challenge we are faced with today. That is why no concessions can be made in this field. The Greek Government firmly believes the previous statement and it is currently deploying all possible efforts so that the Hellenic Police Force is not deprived of the necessary means in order to guarantee public security in our country and secure social peace.
All this is quite necessary today, a moment in which globalized society makes the individual a lot more vulnerable, increasing the feeling of loneliness and fear. The increase of the new forms of crime is directly transmitted by the Media, thus increasing the citizen?s feeling of insecurity to such an extent that quite often the fear of crime is more important that the crime itself.
This is the spirit we want to fight and this is the target of today΄s restructuring. We aim at efficiently improving the citizens´ feeling of security.
The reality is constantly changing at a rapid pace and the Hellenic Police Force must lead the developments.
We have put into place a series of measures and a modern infrastructure so as to bring about a change in mentality and in the concepts related to the role and the work of the Security Forces. Since we have secured the status and the necessary infrastructure for the Hellenic Police Force, it can then acquire a high sense of self-esteem and social recognition.
The principal value of our doctrine is to provide a Police Force which will be at the citizens΄ service, which will support the citizens in their everyday lives and which will improve the citizens´ quality of life.
In other words, we want to have a Police Officer who will be integrated at the social network of the district falling within his/her duties, a Police Officer-“servant” of the citizens, a Police Officer who will be an actor in the social events. We need a Police Force which will be neutral in terms of Political Parties, but which will be pro-active in terms of democracy.
In this way, the Hellenic Police Force will no longer find itself “at the opposite side”; it will stand right next to the citizen, fulfilling its social responsibilities, complying with the laws adopted by a modern, social democracy and the rule of law.
This is the target of the new institution of the Community Police Officer that we are announcing today and that will be implemented in Thessalonica as a part of a pilot programme. Our ambition is to man with a permanent Police representation all Municipalities and Communities.
All the steps that have been taken in the past must now become a quick gallop. We shall preserve all the positive elements we inherited from the past and shall correct all that is negative.
I am quite ambitious as far as the course and the future of the Hellenic Police Force are concerned. We are modest enough so as not to think of ourselves as either flawless or genius; still, I believe we shall pull through.
Besides, if we delve into the past actions of the Police Force, we will find plenty of reasons to be so optimistic. The year that has gone by marked a period of many successful cases, of measurable targets and visible results.
After the successful handling of the Olympic Games security, the Hellenic Police Force has a very rich account to present. Many distinctions of merit should be awarded to the Hellenic Police Force for successfully handling such a complex and global event and it is only fair to say that it belongs to the group of the best Police Forces of the world. I am absolutely certain that the Olympic Games experience feeds back the Hellenic Police Force with new strategic objectives, new visions and indeed, extremely significant achievements.
The valuable experience, the state-of-the-art technological means and equipment acquired for the Olympic Games, form a huge heritage for the Hellenic Police Force. Our effort must be to turn this surplus value to an added value for the Police Force, to the benefit of the citizens. This value will become its most powerful weapon not only for today but also for tomorrow.
On the occasion of the restructuring that we are presenting today, let me point out once again that our vision is to build new relationships between the citizens and the Security Forces. We dream of a new social relationship based on mutual cooperation and trust, for a better tomorrow with less violence and less crime.
This vision is a political commitment for us, a contract with all the citizens.
Nevertheless, this contract shall include one clause of exception: all the measures that may need to be adopted for the security of the citizens shall be implemented on the basis of the not-negotiable principle of protecting human and individual rights. These rights constitute the cornerstone of Democracy and cannot be negotiated. The encroachment of these rights opens the way for barbarism, decline and decay of the human conscience.
If we know the past and if we analyze the present, in a secure society in all senses of the word, we can then successfully plan the future.
However, the citizens must also contribute to this effort. We are trying to breathe life to the feeling of security in this country and we need the active cooperation of the citizens. No measure can give fruit without the cooperation of the citizens.
Crime is a menace to all of us and we can all deal with it in an efficient way.
This is why the Police Force is the first to give its hand so as to reach all citizens and social factors, as it should be. We are waiting for your hand too.