Regions were created in Greece in 1987 in order to respond to organisational and functional requirements of the EU structural policies. Greek regions were not the expression of historically rooted regional identities. Such identities are not particularly strong in Greece (with the exception of Crete), while all over the country local identities obviously overshadow the regional ones. Out of these Greek “Regions Programmes” only a part coincided with historical regions (in Crete, the Ionian Islands, Thessaly and Epirus).
After the establishment of second tier local governments at the level of the former prefectures (in 1994), deconcentrated state administration was re-structured at the level of the regions (in 1998), which gradually built up their own administrative machinery. Re-scaling of second tier local government at the regional level in 2010-2011 was due to the fact that prefectures proved to be too small to function as second tier local governments and, above all, too small to elaborate and implement development policies and programmes.
A unitary state structure
Although it is certainly too early to predict future dynamics of a very young (3 year old) institution, such as regional self-government in Greece, it is obvious that under the given the restrictive constitutional framework that is oriented towards a strictly unitary state structure no one can speak about “regionalisation” in Greece, but simply refer to a second tier of local government in an extremely centralist country.
The 13 Greek regions are not strong regions. They do not have autonomous or special legislative powers and they definitely cannot be classified as institutions of “regionalisation” that could be compared, for instance, to the Italian or –even less so- the Spanish experience.
Greece remains a strictly unitary state and the Greek Constitution simply recognises “two tiers of local government”. The Constitution defines that allocation of competence (both for local/regional and delegated national affairs) among different local government tiers will be regulated by national law.
In Greece, local government has seen a significant number of reforms enhance decentralization during the previous decades. Unprecedented economic crisis (since 2008) and especially rigid stabilization policies imposed by the troika of EU, ECB and IMF (since 2010) combined with top- down approaches seem, however, to bring the long-lasting “rise of local government” to its end. A series of laws and policy measures have drastically restricted space of discretion and initiative given to local authorities during the previous years, especially concerning financial and human resources management. Furthermore, the delegation of additional tasks to local authorities has been suspended and a wave of recentralization seems to emerge.
Despite furious opposition, a series of reforms were attempted by the Greek governments. Reforms were introduced not only in economic policy, but also in other sectors such as pensions, labor relations, higher education and public administration.
by Nikolaos-Komninos HLEPAS
The Report on the state of Regionalisation in Europe.
More than 40 experts contributed to this work, by delivering detailed reports about the state of regionalisation and multilevel governance in chosen European countries. The study covers 41 countries, and each country report is based on a similar structure, thereby allowing a comparative approach among all studied countries.
- The first part of the report gives the political impetus from the main European stakeholders
- The second part of this report entails a summarised version of the country reports. The objective is to provide interested readers with a short overview of the main features of regionalisation in various European countries. The complete versions of the country reports are available on the AER website, under LINK
- The third part provides a thematic approach based on the main findings delivered by the country reports and the current state of regionalisation in Europe. The trends and outlooks lead to open questions on the future of the regions in the European landscape, and more broadly on the role of subnational authorities in the shaping of the continent.
- The fourth part gives the floor to the actual regional decision-makers in Europe, across a series of interviews and statements by Presidents, Vice-Presidents and elected representatives of the European regions.
Over the next months, we will be focusing on a different European country’s approach to regionalisation. During these months, look out for #RoR2017 on Twitter and/or Facebook and follow us at @europeanregions.
Strong European regions are a pathway to a stronger Europe.