Each single prefectural authority has two prefecture committees. Each prefecture committee comprises a chairperson and four members, two of whom come from the minority within the single prefectural authority. The chairpersons of the prefecture committees are members of the prefecture board, nominated by decision of the chairperson of the board.
C) The Prefect has the following responsibilities:
implementing decisions of the general council and prefecture committees;
representing the prefectural authority in a judicial and extra-judicial capacity, and taking the oaths required by the prefectural authority;
presiding over the prefectural authority;
heading the prefectural authority’s staff, deciding on appointments and taking the actions specified in the provisions relating to appointments, all manner of job transfers and the exercise of disciplinary supervision;
deciding on matters relating to the prefectural authority’s revenue collection and budget appropriations;
signing contracts concluded by the prefectural authority;
exercising responsibilities assigned to him or her by law;
setting up committees and working groups made up of members of the general council, prefectural authority officials, government officials and/or private individuals to discuss and define issues affecting the prefectural authority, and stipulating their modus operandi and organisational arrangements.
40. In exceptional circumstances, the Prefect can take the necessary measures in respect of matters within the prefecture committees’ remit, where the interests of the prefectural authority are adversely affected. Such measures are immediately submitted to the competent prefecture committee for approval. In the event of a conflict of interest, the Prefect’s functions are performed by the chairperson of the prefecture committee. The Prefect delegates some of his or her powers to the chairpersons of the prefecture committees. He or she may also delegate the exercise of his or her responsibilities to members of the General Council or the heads or other management staff of departments within the prefectural authority.
41. Provinces do not enjoy autonomous powers, however. They simply exercise powers transferred from the former prefectures, apart from those powers under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Justice, the national statistics office within the Ministry for the Economy and the veterinary border control service within the Ministry of Agriculture, as well as powers relating to the supervision of municipalities and communes.
42. Prefectural authorities’ responsibilities may be divided into three broad categories: a) organisational responsibilities – institutional and administrative matters; b) matters of economic and political administration; c) operational and planning matters. Act 2647/1998, on the transfer of powers to local and regional authorities, contains a long list of powers transferred to Prefectures, including: the issuing of permits for the installation of fuel storage and transportation facilities, the issuing of licences and destruction of illegal crops within their respective areas, regulations on the use and management of grazing land, supervision of health care provision in private clinics, and the approval of agreements on the operation of inter-city transport between non-adjoining districts. Prefectures’ other powers relate primarily to supervision of the application of regulatory provisions: animal health inspections, fishing fleet and aquaculture inspections, export and import inspections at the port of Piraeus and monitoring of the use of grants from Community funds, which are administered and paid directly by the Regional Secretaries General, notwithstanding Prefectures’ requests that they be assigned responsibility for administering the European structural funds.
43. The State Council has previously opposed the transfer of spatial planning powers to the Prefectures, taking the view that they are of national scope and ought to be exercised by central government. On the other hand, prefectural authorities have transferred a significant number of powers to other units of government (ministries, regions or municipalities) since 1998.3
44. Prefectures are competent solely for programming aspects; operational and financial decisions are taken by Regional Secretaries General, that is, the representatives of the central government. The Prefect has to work with communes to draw up a schedule for infrastructure development, which is adopted by the prefectural council and then submitted to the Regional Secretary General and the Regional Council (an advisory body). Decisions are taken by the Secretary General, depending on the resources available from European structural funds and the criteria governing the allocation of those funds.
45. Prefectural organs may therefore be said to exercise powers delegated by central government, acting as its agents; they are subject to hierarchical supervision by the government, exercised directly by the Secretaries General of the respective Regions (Peripheria). The fact that Prefectures do not enjoy autonomous powers and that Secretaries General intervene in decisions relating to the management of local affairs breaches the concept of local self-government as defined in Article 3 § 1 of the Charter (principle B 1.1 of the Helsinki Declaration) and the principle of subsidiarity set out in Article 4 § 3 (principle A 1.2 of the Helsinki Declaration).
46. A new Prefectural Code has been drafted and submitted to Parliament for “rapid approval”, according to an MP from New Democracy (the governing party) who attended the meeting with the Congress monitoring delegation. The approval of this code is expected to “clarify the Prefectures’ powers”, to quote a number of Greek officials, and strengthen their institutional position as local authorities. The new code divides Prefectures’ powers into 10 categories: (to be specified once the table of contents of the draft code has been translated).
47. According to the Interior Minister, the code will grant Prefectures both autonomous powers, relating to local affairs, and powers transferred by central government, relating to national affairs. This will enable the government to transfer powers to Prefectures without generating fresh opposition from the State Council. As regards the administrative supervision of Prefectures, the Minister for the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralisation said the existing system needed to be reviewed, insofar as the new code establishes only ex post facto supervision of legality.
48. As far as the provinces’ finances are concerned, their ordinary revenue is made up of:
- a share of national taxes and resources earmarked at central level (central autonomous funds),
- an annual endowment from central government for the fulfilment of responsibilities delegated by the latter,
- allocations from the public investment programme,
- property rentals;
- “reciprocal” fees charged “in exchange” for specific services.
Extraordinary revenue consists primarily of:
- loans, gifts and legacies;
- government grants;
- European Union endowments;
- land and property rentals.
49. The financial system applicable to Prefectures does not comply with the standards laid down in the Charter or the principles of regional self-government. According to the heads of the Greek Union of Prefectures (ENAE), Prefectures do not have resources of their own. One way or another, all of their main revenue is transferred by the various ministries, depending on the latter’s involvement in investments at prefecture level. Prefectures’ resources are included in the ministries’ budgets and transferred periodically.
50. Notwithstanding an increase in the level of financial transfers to Prefectures (transfers from the Ministry of the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralisation rose from 110 million euros in 2004 to 514 million euros in 2007), this situation nevertheless breaches Article 9 § 3 of the Charter (principle B 11.3 of the Helsinki Declaration), according to which “part at least of the financial resources of local authorities shall derive from local taxes and charges of which, within the limits of statute, they have the power to determine the rate”. The financial system also breaches the rule set out in Article 9 § 4 of the Charter (principle B 11.4 of the Helsinki Declaration), which states that the resources available to local authorities must be of a sufficiently diversified nature. It must be emphasised, however, that, in response to a longstanding demand from Prefectures, central government has taken over the payment of health benefits, which absorbed 75% of Prefectures’ expenditure. In addition, Prefectures were recently authorised to contract loans in order to pay for consultancy work and large-scale projects.
51. Both the Union of Greek Cities and Municipalities (KEDKE) and the National Union of Prefectures (ENAE) are opposed to direct taxation. The heads of both associations are in favour of reforming the taxation system with a view to dividing tax revenue between central government and local authorities, thereby sparing them from taxing citizens. Their budgets represent approximately 2% of GDP and 5-6% of all government spending.
52. The management of Community funds is highly centralised, and prefectural authorities (along with municipalities and communes – see section 2.4 of the Resolution of the Ordinary Congress of the KEDKE, of 14-16 November 2007) are asking to be involved in a joint management capacity in the decision-making process in respect of project selection and financing (see section CRSN 2007-2013 of the Decision of the 12th Ordinary Congress of the ENAE, of 6-8 December 2007). The five regional programmes for the 2007-2013 period are to focus on groupings of regions (peripheria), and administered by the Secretary General of the largest Peripheria in each grouping. Government officials justify the existing situation on the grounds that local authorities do not have the necessary staff training or technical resources to perform this task. In this connection, the Interior Minister informed the Congress monitoring delegation of the imminent creation – thanks to capital provided by the central government – of two private-law companies known as “Nomos Limited”, in which Prefectures are to be represented; the staff of these companies will include experts authorised to prepare projects, certify eligible spending and manage Community funds.
53. It should also be noted that Act 37/14 (2007) on the management of European funds establishes a new framework for their management; according to Interior Ministry officials, it is “clear, rigorous, and strict but not complicated”.
V. SUPERVISION OF LOCAL AUTHORITIES AND PREFECTURES
54. Under Article 8 § 2 of the Charter, “any administrative supervision of the activities of local authorities shall normally aim only at ensuring compliance with the law and with constitutional principles” (principle B 4.1 of the Helsinki Declaration). Theoretically, supervision of the activities of local government organs focuses solely on legality, given that supervision of expediency ceased to exist in 1994. According to the policy communicated by the Minister for the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralisation, the supervision exercised by Regional Secretaries General over the activities of local authorities and Prefectures “consists exclusively in verifying legality and does not restrict their freedom of initiative and action in respect of specific decisions by municipal and communal authorities”. In practice, however, the boundary between supervision of legality and of expediency is very fluid. According to the heads of the ENAE, Prefectures’ financial activities are frequently subject to supervision of expediency by the Secretary General of the Region (Peripheria) and state inspectors, who carry out checks that go beyond supervision of legality and cross over into supervision of expediency. Likewise, during its meeting with a group of MPs from a number of parliamentary parties, the Congress monitoring delegation was told that Secretaries General often exercise supervision of expediency in the name of supervision of legality.
55. Supervision of legality is exercised in advance by the Regional Secretary General. All acts of municipal and communal councils and prefecture councils and committees are submitted to the Regional Secretary General within a specified time limit (10 days in the case of municipal and communal councils, and 15 days in the case of prefecture councils and committees); he or she verifies their legality within 20 days and gives a decision on the act in question. Where an act is deemed illegal, the Secretary General has the power to set it aside by a reasoned decision, acting either on his or her own initiative or at a voter’s request. During the meeting with the Congress monitoring delegation, the Deputy Ombudsman, who is responsible for relations between citizens and the state (in the broad sense), said that the criteria applied by Secretaries General are not always uniform or objective, partly because they lack the necessary human resources (especially lawyers) for dealing with illegal acts, and partly because their decisions may be influenced by political considerations.
56. The Secretary General can suspend local government organs on the advice of a committee (the regional supervisory committee) established by the new Local Authorities Code, which entered into force in June 2006.
57. This body operates as a second-tier jurisdiction, made up of a presiding judge, a lawyer appointed by the Interior Ministry and a representative of the ENAE. It can also dismiss organs on serious grounds of public interest. Such dismissals are effected by ministerial order, in the case of first-tier local authorities, and by presidential decree in the case of second-tier authorities, following a reasoned report by the Secretary General.
58. Applications may be made to the administrative courts for judicial review of decisions of the Regional Secretary General and the supervisory committee.
59. At the same time, the Greek Ombudsman exercises a specific type of supervision over local authorities, as is the case for all government bodies, including public corporations. He receives about 10,000 complaints each year, 30% of which concern local authorities, particularly those in the first tier. The most common grounds for complaints to the Ombudsman relate to the inadequacy of local authorities’ financial resources and arbitrary decisions by elected representatives (especially in areas such as town planning, the environment, staff recruitment, welfare benefits paid by prefectural authorities and refusals by mayors to inform opposition elected representatives about particular matters).
60. In the Deputy Ombudsman’s view, the system for informing citizens about local authorities’ decisions is highly ineffective. Decisions are often simply displayed on bulletin boards, and citizens are not aware of them and cannot react to them. Any citizen can apply to the State Council to have acts adversely affecting his or her interests suspended or set aside. In addition, the Ombudsman can launch investigations into local government acts that adversely affect citizens. Where necessary, the Ombudsman makes recommendations to local authorities, asking them to comply.
61. Local authorities’ performance is assessed by “public administration inspectors” reporting to the Interior Minister. Financial supervision is exercised by Audit Office auditors and Finance Ministry officials. Their decisions may be challenged before the administrative courts. The ENAE accuses public administration inspectors of supervising the expediency of Prefectures’ acts.
VI. STAFF OF LOCAL AUTHORITIES AND PREFECTURES
62. Municipalities and communes currently employ 58,619 staff, in all categories, while Prefectures employ 20,091 staff.4 Civil servants employed by first- and second-tier local authorities are recruited by local government organs. More specifically, established staff are recruited from a list of candidates having passed the relevant examinations; the list is drawn up by the Supreme Staff Selection Council, which is responsible for the recruitment of established civil servants.
63. Staff remuneration is stipulated by law, and matches that of civil servants employed by central government. Local authorities’ staff are covered by two separate systems: permanent (established) staff and staff recruited on the basis of private-law contracts (non-established staff). Established staff fulfil the fixed, permanent – that is, non-temporary – needs of second-tier local authorities. Prefectures are entitled to create posts under private law for indefinite periods and hire non-established staff to meet non-permanent needs for a specified period of time or a specific task.
64. The status of prefecture staff does not appear to comply with Article 6 of the Charter (principle B 10 of the Helsinki Declaration). According to that provision, local authorities must enjoy full powers in the area of staff management. It consequently goes without saying that local authorities must pay their own staff. Yet it is not Prefectures that pay their staff, but central government. This further reinforces the ambiguity of Prefectures’ status and their relationship with central government, giving them very limited management and hierarchical powers vis-à-vis their staff.
65. Staff employed by both tiers of local government are trained by the National Centre for Public Administration and Local Government (CNAPAL). The Centre’s governing board includes representatives of the KEDKE and the ENAE. According to CNAPAL management, only 30% of local authorities’ staff have attended its courses. In their view, the general standard achieved by such staff is still too low. However, candidates must have attended courses at the CNAPAL’s training college in order to be appointed as the director or director general of a local authority. Attendance of CNAPAL courses can equate to more rapid career progression for civil servants.
66. Staff can move from one local authority to another, or from a central government agency to a local authority. The system of financial incentives designed to encourage staff mobility in favour of smaller, more remote local authorities does not give civil servants sufficient motivation to move to such areas. Only officials who go and work for local authorities in border areas are entitled to a small pay rise and a grant to cover removal expenses.
VII. ASSOCIATIONS OF LOCAL OR PREFECTURAL AUTHORITIES
67. The Greek legal system complies with the provisions of the Charter and the principles of regional self-government as regards local authorities’ and prefectures’ right to associate. Greek local authorities are allowed to form consortia of municipalities and communes in order to carry out tasks of common interest, such as the execution and maintenance of public works, the purchase of machinery and equipment and the creation of development programmes for the authorities concerned.
Secondly, the law provides that associations may be set up to promote co-operation and the representation of local authorities at national and regional level. In this connection, the following legal entities have been established under private law:
- local associations of municipalities and communes (TEDK) within each district; membership is compulsory for all municipalities and communes and their respective associations;
- the Union of Greek Cities and Municipalities (KEDKE), which is made up of the aforementioned associations;
- the Greek Union of Prefectures (ENAE), which represents Prefectures.
These associations are consulted about local government matters.
68. The law allows local authorities to promote international co-operation with local authorities in other states in the context of twinnings. Twinnings are decided by the municipal or communal council concerned, but must be approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
VIII. CITIZENS’ INVOLVEMENT
69. The Constitution does not provide for the organisation of local or regional referendums initiated by local government organs. Article 44 of the Constitution lays down rules governing the organisation of regional referendums on crucial national matters. The decision is taken by an absolute majority of MPs on the proposal of the Cabinet. The President of the Republic can organise referendums on bills relating to important social matters, with the exception of fiscal matters.
70. For the first time, the new Municipal and Communal Code allows municipal and communal authorities to hold local referendums in connection with decisions on important matters within their remit. A referendum may be held following a council decision taken by a majority of 2/3 of the total number of members. Local referendums may also be held at the request of 1/3 of citizens in relation to mergers of municipalities or communes, or at the request of 1/3 of voters within a local administrative division with a view to attaching it to a different municipality or commune.
71. In addition, the law provides for the creation of district councils and popular assemblies with a view to encouraging citizens’ involvement in local affairs. At the municipal and communal level, each municipal or communal council can divide its area into districts and set up district popular assemblies and councils. In those municipalities and communes not divided into districts, the mayor or communal president can call at least one popular assembly in order to provide information and generate discussion on important local matters. Residents can also submit proposals with a view to resolving issues within the remit of the municipal or communal council or the council of the local or municipal administrative division. Such proposals must be discussed by the council where they are submitted by at least 25 people; those concerned are informed of the decision taken.
IX GENERAL CONCLUSIONS
72. The Congress monitoring delegation’s overall impression is that the systems of local and prefectural government are democratic, while the “regional” level (peripheria) simply consists of regional branches of central government without direct democratic legitimacy.
73. As regards the degree of self-government enjoyed by first- and second-tier territorial authorities (Article 102 § 1 of the Constitution), there are clearly problems in relation to the provisions and principles of the European Charter of Local Self-Government and the principles set out in the Helsinki Declaration.
74. The “regional” level, for its part, cannot be regarded as consistent with the principles of healthy regional self-government, owing to its nature, composition, advisory status and total dependence on the government.
75. Before going on to analyse the situation further, we must invite the government to take a decision as to whether the European Charter of Local Self-Government (approved in 1989) applies to the prefectural authorities (nomoi) set up in 1989, that is, after the Charter was ratified.
76. Unless the government opts to regard existing or future prefectural authorities as forming a regional level – in accordance with European criteria – to which the Helsinki principles (pending a European charter of regional democracy) would be applicable, the rapporteur takes the view that, as stated in paragraph 5, it is essential to eliminate any ambiguity as to the application of the European Charter of Local Self-Government; a level of government as important as that of the nomoi must be covered by the Council of Europe’s international legal instruments.
77. The current status of Prefectures raises issues in terms of their autonomy vis-à-vis central government. It would be advisable, therefore, to clarify the Prefectures’ institutional status as local authorities, and to eliminate the ambiguity arising from the continued existence of certain features of the former government prefectures, which must not be treated as regional agents or branches of central government.
78. Prefectures’ current dependence on the government (of whatever stripe) is demonstrated by the fact that they lack autonomous powers, only exercise powers transferred by the government and are financed exclusively by budgetary transfers from a number of ministries, and that their staff are paid by the government; these aspects will have to change. The new prefectural code under discussion should afford an opportunity to rectify the situation.
79. Many of the proposals set out in the draft code are a step in the right direction in terms of ensuring greater compliance with the European Charter of Local Self-Government. For example, the code establishes autonomous powers, delegated powers and ex post facto supervision of legality.
80. As regards the financial autonomy of prefectural authorities, those we spoke to acknowledged that, financially speaking, they depended almost exclusively on transfers from central government, although it should be noted that the level of such transfers has increased significantly in recent years. To a large extent, this is also the case for local authorities, in breach of Article 9 § 3 of the Charter (and principle B 11.3 of the Helsinki Declaration), which stipulates that at least part of the financial resources of local authorities must derive from local taxes and charges of which, within the limits of statute, they have the power to determine the rate.
81. The rapporteur takes the view that the financial system must be modified so as to make a wider range of revenue sources available to local authorities, in accordance with the provisions of Article 9 § 4 of the Charter (principle B 11.4 of the Helsinki Declaration), by developing a framework for greater financial autonomy thanks to local revenue collection (fees, loans and direct taxes).
82. In the context of decentralisation and the transfer of powers to local authorities, it would be a very positive step if, in the future, the financial system could be adapted so as to strengthen local financing arrangements, in accordance with Article 9 § 1 and § 2 of the Charter (principles 11.1 and 11.2 of the Helsinki Declaration), such that the financing of local authorities represents a larger share of GDP and of total government spending.
83. Another of the issues raised was central government supervision of Prefectures. While some of those we spoke to deny that there are any problems or excessive central government intervention in this respect, others complain that such supervision is not exercised in a uniform manner and that supervision of legality often turns into supervision of expediency. One MP said that, in fact, “supervision is exercised on the whim of central government”, accounting for the attitude of those who maintain that its application is not strictly legal or uniform, whereas Article 102 § 4 of the revised Constitution states that “the State shall exercise the supervision of local government agencies, which shall consist exclusively in legality checking”.
84. Article 8 § 2 of the Charter (and principle B 4.1 of the Helsinki Declaration) provides solely for supervision of legality. The administrative autonomy enjoyed by local government organs does not appear to be consistent with the systematic prior supervision of their activities on an ongoing basis. All instances of supervision of expediency (allowed in exceptional cases in respect of tasks delegated to local authorities) must therefore be abolished.
85. The existing system for the management of European funds will undoubtedly be streamlined and made more efficient for the 2007-2013 period thanks to the reduction in the number of major operational programmes from 13 to five, according to the grouping arrangement outlined in point 46.
86. Nevertheless, the system continues to be overly centralised and overly concentrated in the hands of the Regional Secretaries General. Although calls for projects are circulated widely, including via the Internet, when it comes to selection and funding there is still a democratic deficit in terms of the involvement of local and prefectural elected representatives.
87. Democratic, participatory management of European funds (2007-2013) also necessitates regional reform with a view to entrusting the management (or even co-management) of European projects to regional elected representatives, rather than having structural funds policy decided and steered by the central government. Some of those we spoke to lamented “a real democratic deficit in the management of European funds”. This is confirmed by the aforementioned demands of the KEDKE and the ENAE.
X. REGIONAL REFORM – CURRENT SITUATION AND PROSPECTS
88. The 13 regions (peripheria) are outposts of central government, thereby constituting a territorial level representing the various ministries. As stated above, each Region has two organs: the Secretary General, appointed by the government, and the Regional Council, made up of prefectural elected representatives and representatives of local associations of municipalities and communes and social and economic bodies. Bearing in mind that the 54 Prefectures constitute the second tier of local government, it may be concluded that there are two units of government at regional level, the boundaries of which do not coincide: Prefectures (local authorities) and Regions (outposts of central government).
89. These two units of government engage in institutional relations with one another and with first-tier local authorities (municipalities and communes); their powers and legitimacy differ considerably. Regional organs, particularly the Secretaries General, exercise very wide-ranging powers without the slightest democratic legitimacy, while prefectural organs enjoy full political legitimacy as a result of their election by the people.
90. The rapporteur is consequently of the opinion that the need to break with the latent centralism maintained by the central government via the 13 Peripheria (in particular through the institution of the Secretary General, who is in fact a regional agent of central government, representing and co-ordinating the 17 government ministries and applying central government decisions) is a sufficient justification for regional reform, if Greece wishes to extend the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality beyond the communes and prefectures and work towards ensuring their full implementation.
91. This view appears to reflect a widespread feeling among the Greek political class, including both the majority and the opposition. Those we spoke to said they no longer wanted peripheria that were outposts of central government, but new democratic structures instead.
92. While there is clearly a desire for ambitious regional reform, the various political parties still need to reach a consensus on the details.
93. The reform sketched out by those we spoke to, with some political variations, would pursue a dual objective:
- streamlining of institutional structures (nomoi and peripheria) by grouping prefectures together into “super-prefectures” or incorporating them into “restructured” peripheria;
- “top-down” democratisation of peripheria organs.
94. The office of Peripheria Secretary General comes up time and again as one of the most controversial centralised organs. As mentioned above, the political and administrative status of Regional Secretaries General does not appear to be compatible with either the European Charter of Local Self-Government or the principles of regional self-government. It is not really acceptable for a state official, appointed by the government and therefore without the slightest democratic legitimacy, to be able to exert such a strong influence over the management of local authorities, in terms of decisions on the financing of their activities and investments and administrative supervision of their organs, including the power to suspend or dismiss the latter. In accordance with the principle of local and regional self-government, these tasks ought to be assigned to a democratically elected body.
95. The minister says he is not wedded to the idea of retaining the title of prefecture; these second-tier authorities could be known as regions. The forthcoming discussion of the new prefectural code, which is expected to stabilise this tier of government, may not be geared to subsequent reform, although the Interior Minister did say that the “new prefectural code will be designed to be able to adapt to future reform of intermediate units of government”.
96. In any event, the abolition of Prefectures can be expected to give rise to political issues. The new political class formed around the Prefectures is highly influential, shaping the contours of reform. According to all those we spoke to, the nomoi have acquired “traditions, roots and political staff attached to this institution”; in other words, they are firmly anchored in Greek society and politics and the resulting force of inertia may inhibit any reform, even though their excessive numbers and small size make it impossible to optimise their management, particularly from an economic perspective and in connection with European projects. The idea is thus to group them together within super-structures, rather than scrapping them.
97. We were also told that administrative units (the former Prefectures?) would probably be retained in order to fulfil local obligations, but that there would probably be just a single elected council (regional or prefectural) and a single elected president.
98. When questioned, the minister said he was not in favour of holding a popular referendum on such reform. In his view, it should be up to the political parties to express their wishes. The president of the ENAE, for his part, says the association is open to reform aimed at making Prefectures bigger. In turn, the prefects we met expect the reform to give the institution “a stable basis that does not change with each government”. They are also determined to argue for its continued existence; they believe it has a legitimate democratic basis (four elections having already been held), and want it to be assigned new powers.
99. The president of the KEDKE also supports reform, which in his view should provide for the democratic election of Regional Secretaries General and of the Regional Council, in the context of a smaller number of regions (7 to 10). He also thinks Prefectures ought to be incorporated into new regions covering a larger area.
100. Generally speaking, the parliamentary parties represented at the meeting with the Congress monitoring delegation (New Democracy, PASOK and the Left-wing Coalition) support reform. New Democracy MPs believe there are levels of planning best supervised by central government, and that the Prefectures are too small to be assigned powers relating to development. They are proposing a system of regions with elected organs; Prefectures within each Region would be responsible for implementing regional policies. As they see it, the aim is to create elected regional councils; in order to introduce a third tier, however, it will be necessary to revise the Constitution, which provides for only two tiers. They are in favour of retaining Prefectures within Regions, the latter forming the second tier of authorities provided for by the Constitution.
101. According to the representative of the PASOK, mergers between municipalities and communes have strengthened this first tier of local government and altered the balance of power between such authorities and the Prefectures, which have been weakened as a result of their large numbers. In his view, it is necessary to proceed with further mergers of municipalities and communes, and to create a second tier based on regions, with regional councils elected by direct universal suffrage. He believes politicians are not ready to announce to Greek society that Prefectures are to be scrapped, and that they cannot suddenly be abolished.
102. The MP from the Left-wing Coalition says the current situation stems from state centralism resulting from historical factors. He told the Congress delegation that there were no legislative proposals aimed at creating a third tier or defining the second tier of local government. Greece needed its local authorities to be more fully integrated, the Regional Secretaries general being merely “the long arm of the state”. If the legislature wished to create a second tier made up of strong local authorities, it would have to merge Prefectures and group them into new regions with a democratically elected regional council and secretary general. Lastly, under the existing system the fourth Community Support Framework would be administered by the government.
103. It should be noted, however, that the adoption of a new prefectural code is simply a preliminary step with a view to reforming the regional level. While the code will consolidate prefectural authorities by granting them autonomous powers, the “regional problem” will remain, owing to the continued existence of a dual system of regional government, made up of territorial authorities (prefectures), on the one hand, and central government representation (peripheria), on the other.
104. The supervision and monitoring role played by Regional Secretaries General remains problematic.
105. While it will clearly be difficult to create regions enjoying powers – and of a size – consistent with other European systems, it seems reasonable to hope that the peripheria will be turned into genuine regions with directly elected organs, including the Secretary General, substantial powers and sufficient financial autonomy to enable them to fulfil the tasks assigned to them.
106. The number of regions (currently 13) will undoubtedly have to be reduced in the future. Those we spoke to talked about having 7, 8 or 10 regions. Such a reduction would allow genuine co-ordination of territorial policies. It should be noted, however, that one of the difficulties involved in reducing the number of regions stems from the fact that island regions require special arrangements.
107. While on a theoretical level many political leaders acknowledge the value or necessity of the eventual creation of strong regions bringing together a number of Prefectures to form the executive level, it is important to note a number of obstacles that are mentioned when the prospect is discussed:
a) The current government says it wishes to obtain the broadest possible political consensus on the subject, and has hitherto focused on strengthening and stabilising first- and second-tier authorities in terms of both financial aspects and institutional supervision (it cites the local authorities’ code as an example).
b) All political players are conscious that any institutional reform is liable to generate additional levels of taxation. Demands are consequently being voiced for comprehensive tax reform that does not place “any additional burden on citizens”.
c) Explanations will have to be given and efforts made to motivate – if not “recycle” – the various political staff employed at sub-state levels; otherwise, there is a danger that reducing the numbers of both elected representatives and officials in the context of new regional structures will give rise to a counter-effect in terms of harnessing energy and the clarity and credibility of such a “regional revolution” in a country that was basically centralised until 1988.
108. Among the positive aspects likely to change people’s mentality, we were told several times about the emergence of a “regional awareness” thanks to co-operation between Peripheria and Prefectures in relation to practical projects (in relation to water and energy, for example).
109. Institutional reform is essential with a view to developing regional self-government, insofar as the State Council’s “rigidity” is preventing the legislative devolution of central government powers to intermediate authorities (e.g. spatial planning).
110. There consequently appears to be a clear need to reform the regional level; this was acknowledged by all the authorities the Congress monitoring delegation met. The general feeling seems to be that regions ought to be democratised, without abolishing Prefectures or revising the Constitution in order to create a third tier of territorial authorities.
111. Twelve years on from the creation of Prefectures as local authorities, it is time to look at the outcome of that reform. Is it not true that the creation of Prefectures as opposed to democratised regions has weakened the system of local government and made it less well-integrated? How can regions headed by central government officials and set up to manage European structural funds be reconciled with regional-type authorities (Prefectures), legitimated by the wish of the people, whose natural focus is on regional development?
112. It is clearly difficult to democratise Regions by introducing elected Regional Councils and Secretaries General while maintaining Prefectures in their present form. Such a reform would necessitate the creation of an additional level of self-government, and there is widespread reluctance to create a third tier of territorial authorities. It is not simply a matter of the problems associated with revising the Constitution, the procedure for which is always complicated and cumbersome. Above all, there is an awareness – borne out by experience in some cases – that three tiers of territorial authorities would be excessive.
113. The idea of turning regions into second-tier territorial authorities and reducing their number appears to have the support of parliamentary parties. The latter also point to the difficulty of abolishing Prefectures, however, which they have used to develop their own political support bases. Most prefectural elected representatives have already amassed considerable administrative experience, prompting them to have other aspirations. It is even foreseeable that the future of the new democratic regions will be built by local elected representatives currently serving in Prefectures.
114. There appears to be a consensus that there are too many Prefectures and Regions at present, and that both Prefectures and Regions should be retained. Be that as it may, the 2001 revision of the Constitution necessitates a review of the intermediate level; the most plausible option, however, appears to be that of reducing the number of Prefectures and Peripheria and incorporating Prefectures into new democratic regions as bodies responsible for implementing regional development policies.
115. The rapporteur is of the opinion that, from a morpho-geographical standpoint, Greece should have only two tiers of sub-state authorities: strong municipalities (but fewer of them) and strong regions – whence the need to integrate the intermediate level, such that the Prefectures are simply a link between the local and regional levels.
116. In addition, if “regionalism” is to progress in Greece, central government will have to abandon its “supervisor” mentality and instead become a “planner” able to work with regions and engage in dialogue with them.
117. In this context, the rapporteur calls on the Greek authorities to continue their political dialogue with the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe with a view to considering options and prospects for the full application of the Charter and the principles of regional self-government and the implementation of effective democratic reform of the regional level in Greece.
Programme for the first official visit by the Congress monitoring delegation
(Athens, 14–16 May 2007)
MEMBERSHIP OF THE CONGRESS DELEGATION
Mr Jean-Claude VAN CAUWENBERGHE, (Belgium, R, SOC), Chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Regions with Legislative Power and the Reflection Group on Regionalisation of the Congress and rapporteur on regional democracy in Greece
Mr Guido RHODIO, (Italy, L, EPP/CD), rapporteur on local democracy in Greece
Professor António Rebordão MONTALVO, consultant (Portugal) and member of the Group of Independent Experts on the European Charter of Local Self-Government
Ms Antonella CAGNOLATI, Director of the Congress
Ms Irina BLONINA, Consultant
Monday 14 May 2007
9.00am – 1.30pm Ministry of the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralisation
Business meeting with:
Mr Patroklos GEORGIADES, Secretary General of the Ministry
Regional Secretaries General:
Mr Charalambos MANIATIS, Secretary General of the Attica Region
Mr Andreas LEOUDIS, Secretary General of the West Macedonia Region
Mr Michalis ANGELLOPOULOS, Secretary General of the East Macedonia and Thrace Region
Ms Aggeliki AVOURI, Secretary General of the Peloponnese Region
Ms Areti BELLIA, Director of Development Programmes and International Organisations
Mr Grigorios FRESKOS, Director General of Local Government
Ms Vicki GIAVI, Director responsible for the Organisation and Operation of Local Authorities
Mr Konstantinos THEODOROPOULOS, Director of Local Finances
Ms Eva MYLONA, Administrator, Directorate of Administration
Ms Athina SOFIANIDOU, Administrator, Directorate of Development Programmes and International Organisations
2.00pm-3.00pm Political meeting with Mr Prokopios PAVLOPOULOS,
Minister for the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralisation
6.00pm-8.00pm Greek Union of Prefectures (ENAE)
Mr Dimitrios DRAKOS, Prefect of Messinia and President of the ENAE
Mr Kostandinos TATSIS, President of the enlarged self-governing Prefecture of Drama, Xanthi and Kavala and First Vice-President of the ENAE
Mr Loukas KATSAROS, Prefect of Larissa and General Secretary of the ENAE
Mr Ioannis STRATAKIS, Prefectural Councillor, Florina
Mr George PAVLIDIS, Prefect of Xanthi
Mr Konstantinos KONTOGEORGOS, Prefect of Evrytania
Mr Elias VLAHOYIANNIS, Prefect of Trikala
8.30pm Business dinner with ENAE representatives and members of the Greek delegation to the Congress (Chamber of Regions)
Tuesday 15 May 2007
9.00am-10.30am Meeting with representatives of the Union of Greek Cities and Municipalities (KEDKE) and full and substitute members of the Greek delegation to the Congress (Chamber of Local Authorities)
Mr Konstadinos TZANAKOULIS, Mayor of Larriseon
Ms Theodora TSIKARDANI, municipal councillor, Servia
Mr MOURATOGLOU, municipal councillor, Edessa
11.00am-1.00pm Greek delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and members of Parliament
Ms Elsa PAPADIMITRIOU (ND), Chairperson
Ms Zetta MAKRI (ND), Chair of the Law and Order Committee
Mr Theofilos VASILIOU, Deputy Chair of the Committee
Mr Ioannis VLATIS (PASOK)
Mr Fotis KOUVILIS (SYNASPISMOS)
Ms Voula SYRIGOS, Secretary of the delegation
1.00pm-3.00pm Lunch break at Parliament
4.30pm-6.00pm Meeting with Professor Spyridon FLOGAITIS, member of the Group of Independent Experts on the European Charter of Local Self-Government in respect of Greece
Wednesday 16 May 2007
9.00am-11.00am Meeting with Ms Calliope SPANOU, Deputy Ombudsman
11.00am-12.30pm Internal meeting of the Congress delegation
1.00pm-3.00pm Meeting with representatives of the bodies responsible for training and selection of prefecture staff (INEP, ESTA, ASEP).