An Intervention by the Regional Governor of Attica at the International Meeting in Nafplio on “Safeguarding Democratic Institutions within a Europe in crisis: Challenges and Responses”

1At the International Meeting on “Safeguarding Democratic Institutions within a Europe in crisis: Challenges and Responses”, which was held in Nafplio on 11 and 12 May as part of the 14th International Law Seminar, Rena Dourou, the Regional Governor of Attica, highlighted on Saturday, among other things, the following: “Today, Municipalities and Regions, which are the levels of governance closest to the citizens and their problems, can play a decisive role for the future of the European project. A project of European Integration, Democracy, Solidarity, Human Rights and the Rule of Law. Local and regional authorities have been present from the start of the European project founding the Council of the Communities of Europe in 1951 in the wake of Schuman’s speech.”

In her speech during a round-table discussion on “Good Governance,” the Regional Governor stressed that “the Region of Attica acts as a modern, European, Metropolitan Region, applying the principles of the European Charter of Local Self-Government.’’ “I would like to remind you, however, that the extension of the implementation of the Charter to the second level of local government is still pending. This has already been highlighted by the Congress with regard to Greece in 2015, calling for an extension of the ratification of the 1850 law of 1989,” she noted.

The Regional Governor briefly referred to a number of good practices in the Region of Attica, such as the creation of new electronic procurement procedures, with high discount rates and healthy competition, the participation of the Region of Attica in an OECD pilot programme to strengthen Internal Audit in the Region, the registration, homogenization and codification of all competences of the Region and the reduction of the required signatures for the issue of administrative acts – adapting properly the internal service division for providing faster service to citizens. Also, drafting a plan for organizing into a hierarchy and prioritizing the anti-flood works in Attica and modifying the Regional Waste Management Plan of Attica, based on the principles of circular economy, recycling, reuse, aiming at the protection of public health and the environment.2

This International Meeting is organized by the European Centre for Research and Training on Human Rights and Humanitarian Action and the Jean Monnet Chair “EU Solidarity in Civil Protection and Humanitarian Action” of the Panteion University, in cooperation with the Permanent Representation of Greece to the Council of Europe and with the support of the Council of Europe, the Municipality of Nafplio and the Regional Unit of Argolida. This is an initiative of the Ambassador – Permanent Representative of Greece to the Council of Europe, Professor Stelios Perrakis.

Here are the key points of the Regional Governor’s intervention:

  • This is an international Meeting which, if I may say so, gets to the heart of the matter – just a few days before the 68th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration on 9 May 1950, which laid the foundations for a project, unique in history, of European peaceful integration. This Meeting touches on the issue of Democracy in a Europe that is still facing a protracted and multifaceted crisis.
  • A Europe that is currently experiencing a crisis of representativeness, a crisis of democratic legitimacy, a crisis of values, the rise of populism and all kinds of extremism. These are factors that undermine both its present and its future. A challenging period for multilevel governance that faces the need for effective functioning in terms of serving the needs of citizens and society.
  • Today in Europe, the forces which are aware of the urgency to protect democracy and human rights in Europe are conducting a public debate on decentralization and regionalization trends.
  • A European public debate as defined by the 1985 European Charter of Local Self-Government and the 2009 European Reference Framework for Regional Democracy. A dialogue on Local and Regional Authorities, which are the irreplaceable tools, firstly, for the restoration of politics in its Aristotelian sense, secondly, for contributing to the economic development of local societies, and thirdly, for tackling the rise of xenophobic and racist trends.
  • And, of course, it is not a coincidence the fact that Local and Regional Authorities are called upon to tackle, with the institutional and financial means available to them, the complex and crucial, for the future of European societies, refugee/migration phenomenon.
  • We often experience legislative shortcomings, gaps, ambiguities, competences overlapping. There are also obstacles regarding the effective operation of the Region and the provision of high quality services to citizens. Obstacles regarding the fight against corruption and bureaucracy. Obstacles regarding the transparent functioning of the Region and its accountability to citizens.
  • Faced with these chronic, institutional barriers and structural malaise, against established negative attitudes, we prioritize our political will and serve the public interest on the basis of the principles of respecting legitimacy, effectiveness, meritocracy, transparency, and participation. The strengthening, that is, of democratic legitimacy as a guarantee and response to the crisis of democracy we are currently experiencing in Europe.
  • In this context, we are building the new standard of good administration in Attica by completing the necessary works, not wishful thinking. Whether it is the participation of the Region of Attica in the European Commission’s Integrity Pact for Public Procurement or the Logistics Centre or the development of a pioneering multi-channel citizens’ service system focusing on the provision of digital services.
  • We do not rest assured. We continue our fight on a daily basis. Since Local Government can guarantee the future of our children.3