New panel aims to improve city center

Deputy Citizens’ Protection Minister Spyros Vougias and Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis yesterday agreed to set up a committee of local and central government officials as well as residents and businesspeople to oversee an initiative to improve quality of life in the capital’s run-down historic center. «We support the municipality’s efforts and… will assume our responsibilities so that we can help to change the image of the historic center,» Vougias said after meeting Kaklamanis at City Hall. The mixed committee the two men agreed to set up would include representatives from migrant support groups to deal with the problems faced by the burgeoning population of undocumented foreign nationals living in cheap hotels and derelict buildings in the area. They also agreed to set up «joint, mixed foot patrols» involving regular and municipal police to crack down on crime in the area, chiefly drug-related crimes, the illicit trade in counterfeit goods and prostitution. Traders and residents in the capital’s historic center have long complained about a degeneration in their quality of life, blaming spiraling crime and the exploitation of local migrants. Vougias said the joint initiative aimed at restoring the old charm to one of the capital’s most cherished districts. «We want to make Athens’s historic center open, humane, alive and functional again, as it truly deserves to be,» Vougias said.

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