Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias has promised a further investigation into alleged illegal activities by Golden Dawn and a more thorough attempt to remove from the force any police officers that were cooperating with the neo-Nazi party.
In an interview with Kathimerini, Dendias defended himself against criticism that before the arrest of Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos and five MPs last weekend, the police were too slow to react to the party’s behavior and that he ignored corruption within the force.
“It is true that the effort [to clean up the police] now has an intensity but it really began in September 2012 after the incident in Rafina [where Golden Dawn members attacked migrants’ stalls at a church bazaar].” said Dendias. “Back then, police officers were suspended either for active involvement in Golden Dawn or for failing to react to what it was doing.”
The arrest last week of a senior officer at the security police was the 11th carried out by the police’s internal affairs department since it began investigating links between Golden Dawn and the force. Dendias suggested there might be more to come.
“There is a political instruction for a total catharsis so a shadow does not hang over the majority of honest policemen,” he said.
Dendias also indicated that the probe into Golden Dawn was far from finished. “We will investigate anything that can be investigated and we will not leave anything unchecked,” said the minister when questioned about what leads the anti-terrorism squad had in relation to an alleged secret cache of arms owned by the extremist party.
The minister denied that authorities had tolerated the party’s practices but admitted that “the actual threat that Golden Dawn poses to social peace and law and order was not properly evaluated.” With regard to how the threat of fascism can be tackled now, Dendias said Greece must rid itself of its culture of violence.
“The first and most important issue is for us to drive violence out of all aspects of social and political life,” he said. “We should not kid ourselves that there was a gradual addiction to violence, which met with tolerance. Golden Dawn was able to take advantage of this ideological justification of violence.”
However, the minister added that economic conditions in Greece would also have to improve and he suggested that the country’s lenders had yet to fully understand what effect the recession and austerity measures were having on Greek society and politics.
“The essential political response is to place emphasis on economic growth and lowering unemployment, especially for young people,” he said. “However, our partners and lenders also have to come to this realization. They should not think that the state of our economy and the growth of neofascism in Greece are not related.”