Article – Intervention by the Regional Governor of Attica, Rena Dourou, on the public debate over reforms in the LRAs which “should have started long ago”.

The entire article on 3+1 proposals for LRAs, as published in the newspaper “Avgi tis Kyriakis” (18.09.2016) is shown below.

Today, the redesign and re-establishment of the functions and competences of LRAs is not a technocratic issue, but a crucial challenge for Democracy. In this context, the LRAs, namely the municipalities and the regions, have every reason to speak and act so as to ensure more democracy and restore the credibility of politics. Local democracy, in other words, can act as a lever for growth as well as an instrument to address such phenomena as social exclusion, growing economic and social inequalities, racism and xenophobia. In order for this mission to be accomplished in Greece, democracy at local and regional level should immediately be re-established.  Besides, this much-needed reform does not entail budgetary costs – quite the contrary: it “equips” the government in its negotiations with the creditors, while it leads the LRAs to be self-governing bodies instead of being dependent on central government, as the case is today.

Therefore, regional authorities should be freed from institutional ‘weights’ and deficits, so as to operate within a clear regulatory framework which would allow them to intervene effectively in issues such as the migrant/refugee crisis, where LRAs are only supported by civil society, as Law 4375/2016 transfers certain powers to LRAs, however, the said powers are provisional.

Direct redesign of responsibility and functioning is needed for regions with the demographic, economic, social characteristics of Attica, to highlight its metropolitan nature in the context of modern multilevel governance on the basis of the principle of subsidiarity. It is no coincidence that institutions such as the Council of Europe stress the importance of “regionalization” (see the special report by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, where the benefits of “regionalization” in terms of public services and growth are highlighted).

In this context, the Region of Attica has conducted a relevant work on efficient functioning (in the absence of bureaucracy- red tape and corruption), to enable LRAs to fulfill their developmental and social role.

Its proposals focus on four points:

Firstly: Explicit constitutional recognition of the notion of metropolitation in Article 102 of the Constitution. Metropolitation must be determined both functionally and geographically, regardless its constitutional recognition, and even beyond it, by means of an appropriate adjustment and elimination of the contradictions which appear at Kallikratis Law (Article 210 provides for a metropolis, yet imperfectly), to enable the regions to become entities in their own right, capable of planning and coordinating interventions through synergies with the local authorities, in the framework of comprehensive exercise of metropolitan powers – not by means of individual acts but by means of regulations. A good example is the Organization of the Master Plan and EnvironmentalProtection of Athens (former ORSA) whose powers were transferred to the central government; as a result, local and regional authorities, the Region of Attica first and foremost, were deprived of the ability of acting in inter-municipal matters, such as spatial planning in the coastal areas of Attica.

Secondly: Unity and continuity of state policy, to avoid overlaps between stakeholders and ludicrous situations as to who is responsible – the municipality or the region- , for maintaining, for example, a footbridge standing on a pavement and above a road! There are many such cases, resulting in an incredible waste of money and human resources, whilst they deprive citizens of the results to be expected from the LRAs.

Thirdly: Constitutional recognition of the competences of the LRAs, in particular the regions, with regard to spatial and urban planning, either directly, under the Constitution, (amendment of Article 102, by adding a specific provision for regulatory powers to be exercised by the LRAs), or by offering the possibility for general or specific transfer of responsibilities by the legislator and/or the central administration. Thus, if regions assume responsibility for problems arising from overlapping or conflicts of land use, they will be able to solve long lasting problems of local societies, and, thereby, enable citizens to make the most of their property.

For example, a business having received authorization for its activities in the past, yet, when a change occurs in the land use, not having foreseen this specific use –even by omission-, this business is no longer allowed to receive new authorization due to renewal or transfer of it.

Fourthly: Constitutional enshrinement of fiscal decentralization, with new rules to ensure the collection and return of public funds from taxes or fees for the LRAs. And, in parallel, institutionalization of the power offered to the LRAs, within the framework of the general policy of the central government, in order for the LRAs to establish and recover own resources, (fees and charges), the content of which is to be determined in principle by the legislator, yet it will be specified by the LRAs themselves.

The aforementioned proposals can be a starting point for a public debate, which, indeed, should have started long ago.