LIBE delays mission to Greece: "It's inappropriate' in the wake of the train tragedy," says Weber and Lenaers

manfred weber Jeroen Lenaers LIBE

The European People's Party (EPP) parliamentary group has decided not to participate in the mission of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) following the train collision tragedy in Greece.

"It is inappropriate and insensitive," said the head of the EPP parliamentary group Manfred Weber and the coordinator of LIBE, Jeroen Lenaers.

An unspeakable tragedy occurred in Greece last week, as they pointed out.

"The country is in shock. The Greek people are mourning a great loss. These are not the conditions to organise an EP mission that could easily be postponed to a later date," underlined Manfred Weber.

The EPP parliamentary group asked that the mission to be postponed after the Greek authorities requested that (the mission) be reconsidered.

"It is extremely disappointing that left-wing groups are so blinded by their dislike of certain governments that they ignore the basic level of respect and humanity," added Jeroen Lenaers.

"The only delegation that Parliament should send after this tragedy is to show our respect to the families of the victims and to offer our support to the Greek authorities," the EPP parliamentary group members said.

Meanwhile, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said in a tweet on Monday that Greece will be supported in its efforts to modernise the railways.

"This morning I discussed with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis about further technical support that the EU can provide to Greece to modernise its railways and improve their safety,"

She added that "experts from the Commission and the EU Agency for Railways will travel this week to Athens. Rail safety is paramount."

The prime minister promised a swift investigation of the collision and said the new Greek transportation minister would release a safety improvement plan. Once a new parliament is in place, a commission also will be named to investigate decades of mismanagement of the country’s railway system, Mitsotakis said.

In an initial statement Wednesday, Mitsotakis had said the crash resulted from a “tragic human error.” Opposition parties pounced on the remark, accusing the prime minister of trying to cover up the state’s role and making the inexperienced stationmaster a scapegoat.

A retired railway union leader, Panayotis Paraskevopoulos, told the Greek newspaper Kathimerini that the signaling system in the area monitored by the Larissa stationmaster malfunctioned six years ago and was never repaired.

Police and prosecutors have not identified the stationmaster, in line with Greek law. However, Hellenic Railways, also known as OSE, revealed the stationmaster’s name on Saturday, in an announcement suspending the company inspector who appointed him. The stationmaster has also been suspended.

Greek media have reported that the stationmaster, a former porter with the railway company, was transferred to a Ministry of Education desk job in 2011 when Greece’s creditors demanded reductions in the number of public employees.

The 59-year-old was transferred back to the railway company in mid-2022 and started a 5-month course to train as a station master.

Upon completing the course, he was assigned to Larissa on Jan. 23, according to his own Facebook post. However, he spent the next month rotating among other stations before returning to Larissa in late February, days before the Feb. 28 collision, Greek media reported.

On Sunday, railway unions organized a protest rally in central Athens attended by about 12,000 people, according to authorities.

Five people were arrested and seven police officers were injured when a group of more than 200 masked, black-clad individuals started throwing pieces of marble, rocks, bottles and firebombs at officers, who gave chase along a central avenue in the city while using tear gas and stun grenades.

In Thessaloniki, about 3,000 people attended two protest rallies. Several of the crash victims were students at the city’s Aristotle University, Greece’s largest, with over 50,000 students.

The larger protest, organized by left-wing activists, marched to a government building. No incidents were reported at that event.

In the other, staged by Communist Party members at the White Tower, the city’s signature monument, there was a brief scuffle with police when the protesters tried to place a banner on the monument.

“The Communist Party organised a symbolic protest today in front of the White Tower to denounce the crime in Tempe, because it is a premeditated crime, a crime committed by the company and the bourgeois state that supports these companies,” Giannis Delis, a communist lawmaker, told The Associated Press.

READ MORE: Train collision: Giorgos Tsalikis explains why he sang in the midst of national mourning.