Yiannis Baboulias

The Greek wildfires and the failings of the state

(Photo: Getty)

The wildfires raging across Greece for what is by now more than a week, show no sign of abating. High temperatures continue in what is the country’s worst heatwave in almost four decades.

While no region of the country has been spared, the images coming from the northern part of Evia island are particularly striking. One, showing an elderly woman in despair – the grim atmosphere behind her painted dark red by fire and smoke, like a still from a post-apocalyptic film – became the prime example of what the new reality of extreme temperatures will look like. It was from Greece, but it could as easily have been taken in Turkey, Italy, Spain and other places around the Mediterranean sea that are fighting the same battle.

But climate change is not the whole story here. While it definitely played a key factor in the catastrophe unfolding in Evia and elsewhere, this is also a story of deep structural and political issues that touch on the local and the European level. It is, at its root, the story of a state, and the union it belongs to, which failed to build with robustness in mind.

While climate change is a key factor in the catastrophe unfolding in Greece, this is also a story of deep structural and political issues

While experts are still assessing the damage, it looks like 10 to 12 per cent – more than 65,000 hectares – of all Greek forests might have burned this summer. The damage in Evia alone looks likely to be bigger than 35,000 hectares.

The current government bears a lot of the responsibility. The Greek forestry agencies asked the government for £15 million this year to carry out preventive work to prevent fires.

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