Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to welcome you to the international conference organized by the Region of Attica and the Special Inter-Collective Association of the Prefecture of Attica (EDSNA), entitled “Sustainable, Environmentally and Financially Sound Waste Management in Attica”
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This conference takes place at a critical point, both at a national level, due to the developments regarding the debt crisis, and a regional level, where stakes are now extremely high with regard to waste management.
We are living in a period where there are pressing time constraints regarding the abolishment of the existing unsuccessful, both for citizens and municipalities, waste management model. This is an unsuccessful model which focuses on mixed waste management in Fyli. The Fyli landfill was described as “a monument of environmental chaos, disease and human suffering” by the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament.
A model which is now outside the legal framework of the European and national legislation.
A model which the Regional Authority of Attica, in cooperation with the new government, the EU, the municipalities and local authorities employees, EDSNA (Special Inter-Collective Association of the Prefecture of Attica), the scientific community and the citizens, is going to replace, setting the basis for a decentralised, efficient, environmentally and financially sound waste management, maintaining at the same time the public nature of this procedure.
Our tools are source separation, recycling and composting.
Our principles are decentralization, small scale waste management and social participation, bearing in mind public interest.
This type of management will benefit both the citizens and the local communities. Benefit will be multiple and tangible, financial and social.
Let me explain: The time has come for waste management in Attica to cease being an environmental and public health problem and become instead a powerful tool for growth, job creation and environmental protection.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the current situation, which is not a Law of Nature, is not only financially painful for Greece due to the fines imposed by the European Court of Justice but also unacceptable in terms of environmental protection and public health.
Wasting financial and human resources in a period of an acute financial crisis and tolerating endemic corruption cannot be and will not be the norm in waste management.
Not because it is stated so by the administration, but because this is required by the Law.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The new Regional Authority of Attica gave a commitment in its election manifesto to change the existing waste management system towards the direction of sustainable, environmentally and financially sound waste management.
Citizens supported this initiative with their vote.
Today we are meeting our commitments and we are already working towards this target through three initial steps. There are more to come.
First step: The Region of Attica has sent a letter-framework to the municipalities and the Municipal Councils of Attica. This letter describes the main points of the new waste management philosophy, which is harmonised to the European and national legislative framework, giving emphasis to the decisive involvement of municipalities and citizens, through local management plans.
These plans will be functionally integrated in a new regional planning, which will soon replace the existing Regional Waste Management Plan, through open, democratic, transparent, participation-oriented procedures, with public, broadly-based consultation with all the municipalities of Attica, social institutions, the scientific community, POE-OTA (Panhellenic Federation of Local Government Employees) and environmental organizations.
The second step was the cancellation of the tenders for the 4 Mixed Waste Treatment Facilities with PPP by the Executive Committee of EDSNA. This planning was in total contrast with EC’s and national regulations, because they served an outdated Regional Planning, which retains mixed waste management and forces the Integrated Waste Management Facility (OEDA) of Western Attica to be the main waste receptor of the 85% of produced waste. In other words, they served a Regional Management Waste Plan identified with a failed and outdated management.
Today we change the way in which things are done.
Not by following orders from above, but aiming to energize local communities and citizens.
The success of this new philosophy will hinge on, to a large extent, the level of involvement of municipalities and citizens in its implementation.
Only active involvement and participation will make this approach successful and signal a victory against the views of those who desire retaining the status quo and a lack of transparency.
The third step is also part of this approach.
It refers to the consultation initiated by the International Conference starting today.
A Conference open to the public.
A consultation enhancing the awareness of municipalities, citizens, institutions.
A consultation acting as a democratic instrument.
A Consultation which is also an answer to all those repeating the same mantra again and again – that the new Regional Authority is supposedly treading blindly without having a programme. This may be their Maginot Line, but those who know about military history, they know that the Maginot line fell.
I remind you that it is their own programme that led to today's unacceptable situation.
According to their own plans, the construction of the 4 plants through PPP would require at least three years. During these three years, can they tell us where they would take the waste to, if it was not to be disposed in theFyli landfill? What procedures had they initiated for another solution? None.
They had initiated no procedures because their plan was to retain the current status quo.
They had invested in it.
To the contrary, the new Regional Authority is investing systematically, on the basis of aprogramme and by employing open, participatory processes, in the new decentralized model of Sustainable, Environmentally & Financially Sound Waste Management.
By using procedures such as today’s Conference where all views can be heard.
By putting all proposals to public debate since no one holds the absolute truth.
And whoever claims otherwise, they are having ulterior motives or being inexcusably naive.
In any case, such people have an adverse impact on the efforts to change the status quo.
A status quo which has many faces and often uses extreme and inept views in order to survive, even trying to appear as being ‘‘revolutionary’’.
However, this is a fake revolutionary stance having no problem in maintaining the current unacceptable situation regarding waste management in Greece.
A truly revolutionary approach is to have dialogue and debate, bearing in mind the public interest. It is not revolutionary to utter false truths offered by ‘‘divine intervention’’.
These so called "truths", away from social control, led us to the current unacceptable situation.
We are very proud that in our Conference you will hear different approaches and learn from good practices employed in other countries.
Practices relating to the application of a rational management on the basis of the so-called reverse pyramid, reducing the volume of mixed waste, recycling, recovery and disposal.
Practices that can help us avoid mistakes, learn and gain time.
Practices and expertise from both countries and institutions, such as the European Commission, which has welcomed, by means of a letter sent to us by the Directorate-General for Regional Policy and Urban Development in early November, the commitment and the policy of the new regional authority to implement the European Community waste legislation.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The current Regional Authority of Attica has taken the initiative for implementing major changes in waste management.
This will be a complete change to the policy practiced up to now by the former administration of the Region and EDSNA.
It will be a change in an extremely difficult financial situation.
A situation that did not, however, prevent the Regional Authority from taking important decisions marking a new course.
I need to emphasize that this is a course which is a product of consultation and joint actions, not an authoritarian imposition of our views.
Here also lies the critical point that will determine the outcome of this new philosophy since its success will depend on the positive response from the agencies, municipalities and citizens who will be asked to implement it with the support of the Region.
Ladies and gentlemen,
There are no magic solutions.
There are no easy solutions.
There is only hard work and taking responsibility.
Collective and individual responsibility for our common future in Attica.
The new Regional Authority, being aware of its role, takes its own share of responsibility in the fight against the current failed system.
Therefore, having these first steps as guarantees for the future, I urge the government, the municipalities, the scientific community, the institutions and the citizens to join forces in the fight for this common goal.
This goal is about implementing the Law.
It is the only truly revolutionary goal that goes beyond the narrow confines of a specific regional administration or party.
It concerns people's lives.
It concerns the future of Attica.
It concerns winning the bet of making waste management a model of good governance in the public sector.
And this bet has to be won.
It is in our hands.
Let us choose sides.
The Regional Authority of Attica has already taken a stand on this matter, through concrete acts, not by merely expressing wishes.
In conclusion, I welcome you to our Conference and I am sure that this Conference will produce exceptional and critical conclusions.
I wish you every success in your deliberations.