By Rena Dourou
The future of Local Self-Government
Last week, immediately after the completion of the evaluation, the Prime Minister has convened a meeting of all the country’s Regional Governors, on regional development. This recognizes the central role that must be played by a decentralised governance model, through transfer of competences and appropriate resources from the central government. Indeed, the ongoing dialogue in the Council of Europe on the “regionalization” as a means of deepening local democracy is quite illustrative. This is because local and regional authorities have an institutional advantage which is a powerful tool in addressing current Democracy-threatening phenomena such as right-wing extremism and xenophobia, as LRAs are the tiers of authority closest to the citizens and their anxieties. At the same time, they can prove effective in tackling corruption and maladministration as well as lack of transparency. Therefore, the Hellenic regions are called on to play a leading role today on two parallel fronts, institutional and entrepreneurial, under a new Road Map of Local Self-Government.
As regards the institutional front, the reform of the legal framework of the Kallikratis Law framework passes through the Constitutional Reform, currently being promoted by the government. The Region of Attica has duly made its relevant proposals to the Dialogue Committee’s interventions on Constitutional Reform. Our aim is that the notion “metropolitanism” implies not just a mere reference in the Kallikratis Law (Article 210 on Capital Operations), but actual functionality. Only under this condition will the Regions be able to fulfil their economic and social role, within the framework of a decentralised policy, not only on paper, but also in practice. They will be able to address maladministration which entails waste of money and human resources always to the detriment of citizens, and thus in an efficient manner, reflecting the unity and continuity of state policy. In parallel, guaranteeing the competences of Local Self-Government in general and of the Regions in particular in key fields such as land planning, urban planning, etc., in conjunction with their financial autonomy, will create the necessary conditions for addressing a long-standing ‘malaise” of the Greek Administration — red tape, corruption, inefficiency, overlapping of competences, unclear regulatory framework.
Such a development will serve as a catalyst for the second front, entrepreneurship. Regions are called upon to act as key drivers for new, innovative, outward-looking entrepreneurship. They are called upon to shift from uneven development andManichaeistic, mechanistic approaches of the past to the creation of a new model of regional development. A model that places emphasis on both small and medium-sized enterprises -the “backbone” of our economy- and on youth entrepreneurship, through synergies with public and private entrepreneurship.
To that end, we, the Region of Attica, have initiated and are delivering a series of initiatives — whether through the signature of cooperation memoranda with public bodies or through cooperation with private actors. The recent awarding of ATHENS STARTUP AWARDS 2017 to young entrepreneurs for their innovative ideas, illustrates the potential benefits of synergy among local government and entrepreneurship stakeholders such as the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI). In so doing, the establishment of the cluster aimed at highlighting the northern suburbs as a tourist — cultural destination, constitutes another example of effective public-private cooperation.
It is thus clear that the new Roadmap for Local Self-Government on the basis of these two fronts, relates to the challenges of the 21st century and to the fourth industrial revolution, which is already drastically changing things on the international and the European scene, in economic and technological terms. The scope of action of Local Self-Government, namely the Regions of Greece, is thus defined by their obligation to act as forceps, so as to ensure social cohesion and economic recovery, and to link effectively the present with the future.