Five new administrative regions are in the pipeline

Local government authorities (OTA) in Greece have only managed to absorb about 60 percent of the funds available from the Third Community Support Framework (CSFIII). And some of that money was unevenly distributed or even squandered. These factors, plus the promise of the new economic and development prospects through CSFIV have made administrative and institutional reform a matter of urgency, so as to ensure that European Union funds due to reach Greece in 2007-2012 are strictly monitored. There is agreement across the political spectrum that the pre-existing administrative structure must change to remove inequalities, extend opportunities for development to smaller municipalities and curb the waste of funds. Profound inequalities The existing setup, comprising 1,000 municipalities and communities, 56 prefects, the heads of the three largest prefectures and 13 regions, seems to have outlived its usefulness, after having allowed EU-funded development to concentrate mainly on two regions (Attica and Central Macedonia). A bill drawn up by Interior and Public Administration Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos proposes the creation of five new Development Regions. They will be in addition to the Administrative Regions, whose purpose is to manage funds from CSFIV, a program that gives priority to regional convergence and lessening inequalities. Introducing the bill, Pavlopoulos referred to «serious intraregional inequalities and major differences in the rate of development, both among prefectures and within the framework of a geographical region and that prefecture.» Apart from anything else, he said, «these inequalities do not allow the real development potential and needs of the regions to be portrayed, with the result that they are unable to claim EU funds.» Administrative units The five major development regions which are being created as united, decentralized state admininistrative units are as follows: 1. Macedonia-Thrace includes the regions of Western Macedonia and Thrace, and Central Macedonia and is based in Thessaloniki. 2. Thessaly, Epirus and Central Greece includes the regions of Thessaly, Epirus and Central Greece and is based in Larissa. 3. Western Greece includes the regions of the Peloponnese and the Ionian Islands and is based in Patras. 4. Attica comprises the region of Attica and is based in Athens. 5. Crete and the Aegean Islands includes the regions of Crete, the Northern and Southern Aegean and is based in Iraklion. Regional chiefs will be appointed by the government (with a salary of around 3,500 euros a month). The new regional chiefs will be responsible for planning, managing, monitoring and evaluating development programs. Each chief will formulate specific Greek regional policies (along lines laid down by the government) and will report to the National Economy and Finance Ministry on matters concerning regional policy and development. They will draw up the development program following reports by regional councils. They will also draw up the regions’ operational program and the annual public investment program. They will report to the National Economy and Finance Ministry on the accreditation of money to the regions, prefectures and local government organizations, and implement procedures for the monitoring, oversight and evaluation of development and operational programs. At the same time, they are to set up a regional council with representatives of municipalities, prefectures and producer organizations. The administrator (envisaged to serve a four-year term) and the Regional Development Council will be assisted in their work by the Regional Development Organization (AOP), which will be set up as a societe anonyme company that is to operate in accordance with the laws that apply to private companies. Its purpose is to give support (mainly in the form of technical expertise) both to the regions in development interventions and to the ultimate beneficiaries – the local government authorities. The company is to be founded with a projected life span of 10 years and will have share capital of 500,000 euros. This sum is to be divided into 100 shares of 5,000 euros apiece. All the company’s shares will be registered and cannot be traded on the stock exchange. Shareholders in the company will be the CSF’s organization and administration unit (MOD) holding 51 percent and the Regional Development Fund holding 49 percent. The chief of each major region must set up a societe anonyme in the region’s base. The company will have a life span of seven years, and will support OTA’s primary and secondary infrastructure projects. All the special services of the Regional Operational Programs (PEP) will continue to operate for three months after the corresponding development organizations, and of the super-regions, start. When three months are up, the responsibilities of the special services will be brought under the AOP. Better planning «The new structural model of five major regions should have been set in motion long ago,» claims Deputy Interior and Public Administration Minister Thanassis Nakos. «CSFIV definitely demands more maturity from local government,» he said. «The format we inherited from CSFIII is extremely bureaucratic and, above all, inadequate.» Nakos explained that the new administrative model does not try to shrink local government or distort its basic features, but «aims at better planning and a more rational distribution of funds. In their present form, the regions are very small by European standards. It has been made clear that if some municipalities cannot meet the new specifications for the projects as set by the EU, they risk being left out of development prospects.»