Politics: PM chairs cabinet meeting on action in downtown Athens

A cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister George Papandreou, decided on Monday to appoint government vice president Theodoros Pangalos to coordinate action for downtown Athens and the handling of unklawful behaviour.
The measures decided include daily patrols that will also be assisted by members of the municipal police, targeted action by the Crime Prevention and Suppression Group, large operations of generalised police checks at least on a weekly basis, the creation of a bicycle road network and the turning of old hotels in central Athens into student dormitories.
Addressing the cabinet meeting, Premier Papandreou said, according to reports, that Athens is the place where the meaning of a democratic city was born but today the citizen lives isolated from the city.
The meeting focused on the existing problems in the centre of Athens and was also attended by Athens Mayor George Kaminis and Attica Regional Governor Yiannis Sgouros.

The prime minister said the condemnation of violence is not enough, stressing that a new enactment of democracy is required in the country that will secure institutions which will cultivate the citizens' participation.

"Our intervention does not aim simply at the centre's self-evident security but at the city finding its soul once again," Papandreou added.

He further said the centre is experiencing phenomena of decline and accumulated problems whose roots go back to the 60s and 70s while, as he said, frequently in public speech the problems of Athens "are simplified and focus on the gathering of immigrants in the centre of the city."

The problems are social and the solution must be political, he said, adding that the police do not solve social problems.

Papandreou also said that all the Athenians remember the city in the period of the Olympic Games, in August 2004, and that opportunity was lost and today "we are experiencing the results of the policy of the government and the municipal authority after the Olympic Games."

Lastly, the prime minister, acknowledging on the one hand the workload that the ministries involved in the centre of Athens have, stressed on the other hand that delays are not justified and urged ministers to handle the crucial issues of the centre of the capital as soon as possible.

The prime minister received, before the cabinet meeting, Athens Mayor Kaminis.

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