Two-Day Conference: Democracy, Rights, Transparency and Public Policies in Local Government: The challenge of Constitutional Reform
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you all for attending this two-day conference, organized by the Region of Attica, under the auspices of H.E. the President of the Hellenic Republic, and supported by the President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe.
This event is part of the Dialogue Committee’s interventions on Constitutional Reform.
Furthermore, this event is dedicated to the memory of former President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, Jean-Claude Frécon.
At this point, please allow me a particular reference to the late President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe. Jean-Claude Fréconwas a great politician, a strong believer in the European idea, and a great master of Local Government and its huge potential. He was also a genuine humanist, as he has proved by his immediate response to my invitation, in spring 2016, to visit Attica with a Congress delegation so as to offer their support to the efforts aimed by the country’s regional and local authorities at addressing the refugee/migration crisis. I shall never forget the words that he kept repeating to all of his interlocutors on 6 and 7 September: “Attica, Greece cannot shoulder the refugee/migrant crisis alone, as this is a European issue and should be treated as such by all countries of Europe in terms of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility’.
In Gudrun Mosler-Törnström, Jean-Claude Fréconfound a worthy successor of his work, a true guardian of the principles of the Council of Europe.
And, speaking from this podium, I would like to thank her publicly for both her support and her participation in this two-day conference on Constitutional Reform.
Her participation is of key, symbolic significance.
The reason I am saying that is because the Council of Europe and Greece are bound together by special historical ties. On 30 January 1969, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe isolated the junta regime, speaking out in favour of the struggle against dictatorship, purging itself from military-ruled Greece, and sending to the world a strong message on the protection of individual rights, parliamentary democracy and the rule of law.
A message that, Ladies and Gentlemen, remains highly relevant today. For, Europe is currently obscured by the double threat of the rise of right-wing extremism and the terrorist attacks by fundamentalist Islamists.
Coordinated democratic functioning of a State is the best safeguard for Democracy.
This functioning is assured by a Supreme Law safeguarding the rule of law, Human rights and Democracy. Hence, the importance of the work of the Dialogue Committee’s interventions on Constitutional Reform, in which the Region of Attica takes part.
Indeed, the Region of Attica has submitted its proposals, both on the reform of the Constitution and on the reforms of the legal framework of the Kallikratis Law.
The objective consists of upgrading the regulatory framework by substantiating the metropolitan characteristics, so that Local Government will be able to fulfil its social and economic mission to the benefit of the citizens, without any institutional constraints.
Our country, today, needs a Local Government that can act within a clear legal framework, devoid of ambiguity and overlapping competences to the detriment of citizens. These reforms, at no additional financial cost, ought to have been done earlier, as they contribute to the exercise of good governance and to the consolidation of a new model for sustainable growth.
Local and regional authorities can thus become the key to the deepening of Democracy and the well-being of local communities.
Ladies and gentlemen,
At this point, I would like to take advantage of the presence of the Minister of Interior to raise a highly relevant issue, in view of the debate on the Constitutional Reform as well as the discussion on the reform of the Kallikratis Law.
I am specifically referring to the need to extend the scope of the European Charter of Local Self-Government, signed in Strasbourg on 15 October 1985, to the second tier of local government, namely the regions.
This omission is due to the fact that in the year when the European Charter of Local Self-Government was ratified by Greece, by Ratification Law No 1850/1989 (Greek Government Gazette A’ 114), i.e. in 1989, regional authorities were not yet in place. As a result, regional authorities have never been included in the scope of application of the Charter. This issue was raised by Jean-Claude Fréconas well, at the meetings held in Athens last September.
The current President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, Ms Gudrun Mosler-Törnström,as co-rapporteur of the third report of the Council of Europe on Local Self Government in Greece, in March 2015, has raised the matter as well.
In particular, the Congress has pointed out that the scope of application of the Charter is limited to the first tier of Local Government, therefore, in its recommendation, the Congress called on the Greek authorities to extend the scope of the Charter to the second tier of Local Government, namely the regions, by amending the existing legislation (Article 2 of the Ratification Law.1850/1989).
The fact that the second tier of Local Government, namely the regions, are not included in the scope of application of the European Charter on Local Self-Government is not only an important political and legislative gap.
It is also a deep administrative arrhythmia, which does not in any way contribute to full and unhindered application of the constitutional requirements with regard to Administrative Decentralisation.
Hence the need to take all necessary legislative initiatives to amend the existing legislation and to extend the scope of the Ratification Law 1850/1989 to the second tier of Local Government.
Furthermore, in the light of the new social, political and economic situation, a review of the reservations raised in the original Ratification Law of the European Charter of Local Self-Government (1850/1989) should be initiated as well — as also requested by the Congress in its report.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I, hereby, declare this two-day conference open and wish you all fruitful deliberations for final conclusions to be drawn.