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29 November, 2023
 
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Greek shipping Minister's exit shakes government after fatal ferry incident

Greece's resignation sends shockwaves through politics

Kathimerini Greece Newsroom

Shipping Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis announced his resignation on Monday, a few days after the death of a ferry passenger who was forcefully pushed off a ferry in Piraeus last week.

Government spokesperson Pavlos Marinakis said Varvitsiotis will be replaced by Christos Stylianidis, who served as Climate Crisis and Civil Protection Minister in the previous government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

The incident, captured on a video and shared on social media, sparked anger across the country. It showed the passenger trying to board the Blue Horizon ferry as it prepared to leave, and a crewman shoving him off the loading ramp into waters violently churned by the moving ship’s propellers. No effort was made to save the man, and the ferry continued on its course far out of port until it was ordered back.

Varvitsiotis expressed “shock, horror and sorrow” at the incident, and identified the victim as Antonis Karyotis, 36. But in a separate television appearance he said, “Today, there are people mourning the unjustly lost; but the families of those who went to earn a wage, a day’s pay, and are now being accused of murder, are also mourning.”

The statement sparked anger with people noting that the minister appeared to equate the crewman with the victim. Varvitsiotis tried to clarify that he meant something different from what everyone understood, attributing the interpretation to a political. Ultimately, he issued an apology, but criticism did not abate.

“In the last few days, I have become the target of an attack that is acquiring more and more toxic characteristics. A statement of mine that was easily misinterpreted caused outrage. I immediately apologized sincerely. In no way did I equate the victim with the perpetrators. In no way did I wash away the responsibilities that the ship-owning company has, which it still refuses to assume,” he said in a statement announcing his resignation.

“My political career and my personal dignity dictate that I do not remain in the position of Minister of Shipping and Island Policy. That is why I submitted my resignation to the Prime Minister,” he added.

Varvitsiotis’ resignation is the second for Mitsotakis’ government in less than two months, after Notis Mitarakis stepped down from Citizen Protection Minister for holidaying on a yacht off the island of Patmos while major wildfires were destroying Athens. Mitarakis had also been widely criticized after two of his announcements concerning the police were walked back by Mitsotakis himself.

TAGS
Cyprus  |  ferry  |  minister  |  government

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