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In Greek Debt Crisis, Government Puts its Policemen Up For Rent

With the economic crisis plaguing the country, drastic means have been taken to replenish the public coffers. It is in this context that the Greek government has adopted a measure allowing the use, for a fee, of the National Police and its equipment for private needs.

While the Ministry of Citizen Protection (in charge of the country's security services) said the move will help to "pay for the cost of using police material and infrastructure, and allow modernizing them,” the average citizen’s security is being seriously compromised and it raises the question of how far Greece is ready to go to cut state funding.

As reported by the newspaper Proto Thema, for only 30 euros an hour, Greek citizens could now use police officers as personal bodyguards. For 10 more euros they can get a patrol car and for an amount of 200 and 1500 euros per hour respectively, they can have patrol boats or police helicopters. The minister, nevertheless, warned that the services offered will be limited to legal activities only.

This measure is more likely to ridicule the role of the police at a time when the social order is increasingly fragile. We can imagine an instance where the police will be busy with its “private clients” and other citizens who cannot afford such services will have to sort out protections from themselves.

This practice is, however, not completely new and does not only exist in Greece. In France for example, "renting the police" is also possible. But it is limited to sporting events such as cycling races or soccer games. By extending it to private people, the Greek government has undoubtedly gone too far.

Maybe if the extra income from this measure was used to increase the purchasing power of police officers, which has dramatically decreased given the cuts, it would have not raised questions. But that’s not the case.

Indeed, the approach is just part of a larger privatization movement, in which Greece hopes to collect 50 billion euros, somewhat of a derisory sum compared to the country's public debt of more than 350 billion euros.

But even that would not be enough to save Greece. It also means that the government will have to push beyond the “classical sense” of privatization to the sale of public assets. It is already offering pieces of its coastal territory for sale, and even the Acropolis was put on lease.  

This selling and leasing of public belongings is also becoming increasingly common in Europe.  In fact, in June 2011, the Austrian government tried to sell two mountain peaks for about 121,000 euros. But, it was forced to retract facing the polemics that the sale generated in the country. In Italy, a country also hit hard by the economic crisis, more than 9,000 public buildings and even beaches were put on sale to help public finances.

At the critical stage where the Greek finances are, one can only wonder if the state will not simply end up removing the police and why not the army, teachers or even judges. In that way at least, it will be assured of not having to fund any public service. 

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