R. Dourou: The local government as cell of Democracy
The Regional Governor of Attica, Rena Dourou, stressed the need for an effective cooperation in favour of regional governance, "away from a partisan approach and strategies aiming at electoral gains", during her speech at the 6th Ordinary Conference of the Association of Greek Regions (EN.PE) on "Regional Governance: New Structures, New Answers, Constant Value", which was held in Ioannina on Monday 17th of December 2018.
The Governor has pointed out the triple mission of local and regional government as "cells of Democracy": the fight against the far right, becoming a development policy tool and an instrument of social cohesion.
"These three interrelated objectives must be achieved in order to restore the citizens' confidence in democratic institutions, the rule of law and human rights", the Governor underlined, adding that the promotion of decentralized exercise of power it is not a technocratic issue but a constant struggle for Democracy.
"In today's critical conjuncture, when the far-right attempts to return to the forefront, using often as a vehicle the phenomenon of migration and employing a racist and phobic rhetoric, Local Government is an institution that can and ought to act as a concrete barrierto nationalism, intolerance, violence and all forms of fascism".
Please see below the entire intervention by Rena Dourou:
The ordinary conference of our representative body is being held today, while we face an extremely critical situation.
A situation in which drawing conclusions is simply not enough.
It is not enough to demonstrate the great advantages and benefits of regional governance.
We have to create the specific institutional conditions that will enable regional governance.
By demanding specific reforms from central government.
By staying away from a partisan approach and strategies aiming at electoral gains.
By demanding, for example, the implementation of the same concept that the current Administration of the Attica Region has placed at the heart of public debate, both within the context of the functioning of the Constitutional Revision Committee and the context of the functioning of our collective body.
I am actually referring to the issue of metropolitanism.
This is a well-known precondition, as we have already stressed in our relevant proposals, which can release a great dynamic in regions sharing the characteristics of the Attica Region.
By demanding also an institutional clarification of responsibilities - both between the various Local Government Bodies and between Local Government Bodies and central government.
By demanding, in other words, an institutional upgrading of the role of Local Government. The most genuine and forward-looking institution of Democracy.
In today's critical conjuncture, when the far-right attempts to return to the forefront, using often as a vehicle the phenomenon of migration and employing a racist and phobic rhetoric, Local Government is an institution that can and ought to act as a concrete barrier.
A concrete barrier to nationalism,
and all forms of fascism; a kind of fascism that may not always be clear,
but it is always behind the most repulsive rhetoric,
the most abominable acts.
A kind of fascism that signifies social regression,
a return to obscurantism
and the denial of the fundamental principles of Freedom, Equality, and Democracy.
We can no longer talk about the serpent's egg.
Since today, unfortunately, the serpent's egg has already been well hatched.
And it has become a dangerous reptile, provocatively threatening to smash social achievements that have been acquired through decades of struggle.
this struggle for a democratic reform of local self-government,
for promoting and consolidating the decentralized exercise of power through regional governance,
it is not a technocratic struggle.
It is not an intra muros matter.
It is not a dialogue between some so called "specialists".
It does not concern a specific region or a specific Party.
It is a constant two-front struggle, concerning Greece and its citizens.
Concerning both the present and the future of our children.
The first front is a constant struggle against clientelism and a hypertrophic and bureaucratic state, the three menaces that have marked the modern history of Greece.
It is a struggle to build a new model of administration.
The second front concerns social interventions.
That is, interventions on social cohesion.
Interventions in favour of those crushed under the weight of difficult economic circumstances. In favour of those who have no voice.
Those who do not have access to health services.
Those fellow citizens who feel marginalized and outcasts.
Those vulnerable fellow citizens who are often the target of the far rights manipulative rhetoric.
International experience and European history are an eye-opener.
Where public services fail,
where ignorance is dominant,
where misinformation is widespread,
it is exactly there that social rights are on the retreat,
historical revisionism and brutal violence are developing.
The Region of Attica has been active in this two-front struggle for four years.
We have been fighting both against bureaucracy and corruption,
we have been trying hard to change the previous situation,
causing reactions from those who had been in favour of the past status quo.
At the same time, without becoming a substitute for central administration, we attempt to improve our fellow citizens’ social protection net, which is more necessary than ever in today's circumstances.
This causes the reaction of the far right.
We are currently funding 55 Community Centres throughout Attica,
We are promoting the ‘‘Electricity for All’’ scheme
We support vulnerable social groups through the institution of Open Markets
We support social, refugee and migration structures through the Logistics Centre we have established
We have supported public health through the purchasing of modern equipment, of an estimated worth of EUR 40 million, for all hospitals in Attica.
These are some of the social policy initiatives we have undertaken and have been implementing.
Initiatives that were not easy to implement, due to institutional deficits,
chronic serious malaises,
which, unfortunately cannot be addressed or resolved by the new institutional framework that replaced "Kallikrates".
This is because "Cleisthenes",
apart from the introduction of proportional representation, which has been a major improvement versus the old system,
unfortunately does not solve the functioning issues concerning Local Government Bodies
in relation to central authority and auditing bodies,
it does not help their growth prospectives, and
does not support their social function.
These are critical issues that we have identified in a timely manner, underlining the need for immediate reforms without a budgetary cost.
I could refer extensively to many relevant institutional "thorns" that have not been resolved,
but, to save time, I will just refer to two such issues.
Firstly, a kind of "guilt competences" is being perpetuated,
that is, competences that give rise to "indictments"
instead of producing "solutions".
I am saying this because we have found out that there has been a transfer of competences to the regions, which creates solely responsibilities and obligations,
without enabling the regions to exercise these competences effectively!
Secondly, the culture of a constant supervision by a number of different supervisory central government agencies is being maintained.
I am referring to Decentralized Administration,
Archaeology Agencies, and Forestry Departments,
which prevent, when not delaying in a catastrophic manner,
the implementation of important decisions and projects.
This situation strengthens bureaucracy, while not serving the need for immediate effectiveness on the part of Local Government.
This means that the Constitutional Mandate is not being served.
This does not create the pre-conditions for releasing the dynamic of Local Self-Government.
A dynamic that can make Local Government a real Self-Government, not, an Other-Government as it is today.
A Local Government which we ought not to sacrifice on the altar of pre-election politics.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today, five months before the municipal and regional elections, we have a debt to our citizens:
to highlight the triple mission of Local Government:
to act as a shield against the far right,
to function as a development policy tool,
and to become an instrument of social cohesion.
These three interrelated objectives must be achieved in order to restore the citizens' confidence in democratic institutions,
the rule of law and human rights.
Three objectives for a Local Government – cell of Democracy,
that will give a proper response to fascism.
The Local Government that was envisaged by Rigas Feraios and Modern Greek Enlightenment,
a Local Government that we ought to defend strongly,
following the exhortation by the architect of the victory against fascism - "we never go back, we never retreat."
It is this Local Government that I call upon you to demand, defend, and build.
A real Local Government from citizens, with the citizens, for the citizens."