April 13. 2024. 6:50

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Greek government grants ‘inviolability’ to train accident investigation body


In a last-minute amendment, the Greek ruling New Democracy party granted inviolability to an ad hoc body investigating a deadly train crash that cost the lives of 57 people but the body’s legality is questioned, considering Athens violated a relevant EU directive.

The amendment suggests that the members of the body, which the government selected, “do not accept instructions […] have no responsibility, nor are they prosecuted or examined for an opinion they expressed or a vote they gave in the exercise of their duties in the context of its operation, unless they acted fraudulently”.

Anti-government press reported that a similar regime was granted by the government for the committee of experts appointed to deal with the pandemic.

The European Commission recently told EURACTIV that it has “identified” the lack of a permanent and independent railway accident investigation body in Greece since 2019 in violation of EU law, but no action was taken, and only in the aftermath of a train tragedy are the Greek authorities setting one up.

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A European Commission spokesperson said the executive has been aware of the situation since 2019.

“Greece completed its transposition of the Railway Safety Directive (EU) 2016/798 on 23 October 2019. In the course of the compliance check and following information received from the European Railways Agency, the absence of an operational investigation body in Greece was identified,” the spokesperson said.

The EU spokesperson added that in July 2021, the Greek authorities informed the Commission of their intention to establish a multi-modal investigating body to ensure the best use of experience and efficiency of the investigation processes.

“However, this process had not been finalised satisfactorily, which is why the Commission has been in touch with the Greek authorities on this question,” the official noted.

In the aftermath of the train tragedy, EU officials visited Athens and met with government representatives, including Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Referring to that visit, the spokesperson said, “while awaiting the official notification, our understanding is that the legislative and administrative procedures to empower the National Investigative Body to function are almost completed and that recruitments are imminent”.

The EU spokesperson refused to comment on the government’s decision to set up an ad hoc investigation body and referred EURACTIV to article 22 of the relevant EU directive.

Article 22 states that each member state shall ensure that investigations of accidents are conducted by a permanent body, which shall comprise at least one investigator able to perform the function of investigator-in-charge in the event of an accident or incident.

Greece’s lack of train investigation body ‘identified’, not addressed by EU

The European Commission has “identified” the lack of a permanent and independent railway accident investigation body in Greece since 2019 in violation of EU law, but no action was taken, and only in the aftermath of a train tragedy are …

(Sarantis Michalopoulos | EURACTIV.com)