The Interior Ministry is making preparations to slash Greece’s municipalities and prefectures by more than 60 percent in a bid to improve their efficiency and flexibility within the framework of a plan based on similar European models, according to government sources. The plan will effectively reduce the number of municipalities to 400 from 1,034 currently, while the prefectures will be trimmed to 16 from 52, sources told Kathimerini. This will be completed in two phases. Initially, municipalities will be able to merge voluntarily with nearby peers in a bid to take advantage of financial incentives to be offered by the Interior Ministry. The second stage of the plan will force the merger procedure in a decision that will be based on different criteria. The municipality’s location, composition of its population and local growth levels will be among the factors that will be taken into consideration. In an attempt to help push through the changes without opposition, the government is expected to stress that the mergers will result in structural administrative changes and no cutbacks of services. The conditions are right for this sort of change, said one government source. A number of councils will opt for the change of their own accord in order to find a solution to their financial problems, the source added. The conservative government hopes the reforms will increase the operational effectiveness of local councils and prefectures, making them more efficient in tackling local problems. Funding for Greece’s regions is expected to grow under the European Union’s Fourth Community Support Framework. It is the second major local government restructuring effort to take place in Greece in the last 10 years. In 1998, the socialist government merged 6,000 municipalities into 1,033.