An open letter addressed to the Greek government by the mayors of five major Greek cities – Athens, Thessaloniki, Patra, Volos and Ioannina – is, objectively speaking, a healthy and hopeful move on the local political scene, which needs new ideas and faces.
The fact that the aforementioned mayors were elected as independents is a plus in terms of their credibility, as is their satisfactory tenure up to now, despite having faced difficult situations in their respective municipalities.
This is particularly true of Giorgos Kaminis in Athens, Yiannis Boutaris in Thessaloniki and Yiannis Dimaras in Patra, although that is not to say that the tasks facing Panos Skotiniotis and Filippos Filios in Volos and Ioannina respectively are any easier.
The first positive point with regard to the five mayors’ intervention is that their criticism goes out in all directions currently influencing the operations and performance of Greek local administrations. In other words, they slam the government in Athens for behaving in an arbitrary and derogatory manner against local administrations, they slam political parties which resort to populist methods and prevent any kind of change, and they slam local authorities that frequently resort to clientelism and partisan means while also pointing to the sector’s extreme unionists and their tendency to resort to violence in order to maintain small-time interests to the detriment of the rest of society.
The second positive point is that the five mayors promise to take swift initiatives and make suggestions to improve daily life in their municipalities as well as suggesting alternative revenue sources.
Essentially, the letter is not a means of protest but a political move by political players in managing positions, people who are in constant direct contact with specific problems – primarily regarding the quality of life – plaguing citizens in major cities, which is where the majority of the country’s population lives. The hope is that this is not a political gimmick in view of the 2014 regional elections, something which seems unlikely judging by the signatures on the letter.
The country has yet to realize how important the role of local government can be. On the other hand, only a few Greek mayors understand their role, the fact that they are appointed to do the “laundry” as opposed to high politics. Seen from this perspective, if the letter penned by the five mayors takes on the quality of a movement, not as an adversary to but in collaboration with the central government, this could lead to an enrichment of the political scene which would not be a product of the out-of-touch partisan system but of contact with real problems.