NEWS

Ministers brainstorm on city revamp

Several ministers on Monday submitted their proposals for the planned regeneration of the capital?s historic center during a meeting with Prime Minister George Papandreou, who is not expected to announce the details of the revamp until June, after other more pressing matters have been addressed.

During the meeting, which was attended by Interior Minister Yiannis Ragousis, Environment Minister Tina Birbili and Citizens Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis, among others, a proposal that kept recurring was that of offering young Athenians incentives – such as tax breaks and subsidized rents – to relocate to the historic center.

The aim of the incentive scheme is to breathe some life back into the run-down area which has been abandoned by residents over the years due to widespread drug dealing, prostitution and a burgeoning population of mostly destitute undocumented immigrants.

Much of Monday?s meeting was devoted to the subject of immigrants, with several calls for an extension of the voluntary repatriation scheme for migrants living in Greece. There already have been hundreds of takers for the European Union-subsidized program which foresees the government covering transport costs for each migrant as well as 200 euros in spending money.

Ideas for a more effective crackdown on crime in the city were also mooted. And the revamp of public spaces including the renovation of derelict buildings, many of which are currently being illegally occupied by immigrants, was discussed as well as the thorny issue regarding the relocation of units of the Organization Against Drugs (OKANA) out of the city center.