Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou appears to have no intention of abandoning or altering his government’s ambitious plan to to overhaul local government and cut the number of municipalities by almost two-thirds despite fierce criticism from opposition parties and, as it emerged yesterday, from within the ranks of his own party.
Papandreou vehemently defended the plan, known as “Kallikratis,” which was unveiled on Sunday at a Cabinet meeting. “The Greek people voted us into power to make changes, not to tinker,” said Papandreou.
On Sunday Interior Minister Yiannis Ragousis unveiled plans to redraw administrative boundaries and cut red tape at a local level. At the heart of the proposals is the plan to do away with the 76 prefectures that currently span the country and replacing them with 13 larger regions. Similarly, 1,034 municipalities will be whittled down to less than 370.
The minister said that the government plans to release the plan soon for public consultation, as it hopes to pass the relevant bill through Parliament by May. This would give it enough time to make the changes that “Kallikratis” envisages in time for November 14 local elections, which would take place under the new set-up of fewer municipalities.
Among the other ideas being put forward as part of the plan is the creation of electronic Citizen Service Centers (KEP) in rural areas where residents will be issued with smart cards that will allow them to request documents, submit applications and perform other bureaucratic tasks electronically.
Papandreou insisted that the “broad consensus” necessary for the plan to succeed does exist. However, it seems that even within his government, not everybody is convinced that Kallikratis is quite the correct way forward.
Sources said that six ministers expressed their concerns about the planned changes during Sunday’s Cabinet meeting.
One of their main worries appears to be that the politicians who are elected heads of the 13 regions will have too much power and influence.
Each of them will have received more votes than the MPs representing that particular part of the country and in the case of Attica, which will be one region, the person in power will be responsible for more than 4 million people, making him or her an incredibly influential figure.
New Democracy’s spokesman for interior affairs, Christos Zois, labeled Kallikratis a “presentation of ideas that contains statements of intent and public relations tricks.” Former Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos accused the government of not doing any of the groundwork necessary to ensure that local authorities could be merged and not working out how the project would be financed.
The three other parliamentary parties also criticized the scheme.