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25 May, 2024
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Local governments lease, but rarely police

Greek citizens call for municipal and state accountability amidst public space exploitation and abuse



By Ioanna Mandrou

In an effort, years ago, to modernize the state and make it work better at all levels, important and critical responsibilities were assigned – and rightly so – to local government bodies. These responsibilities have to do with essential aspects of our daily lives, such as cleaning services and taking care of the public space (streets, squares, fountains).

In order to manage these public spaces, municipal authorities have also undertaken their commercial exploitation to raise income by leasing space to shops, restaurants and other businesses.

And while the municipalities rightly gain from renting out public spaces for the sake of people’s recreation, such as allowing sunbeds on beaches, they are not interested at all (in their vast majority, because there are exceptions) in how this is implemented in practice. That is, if the contracts and leases are respected, or if tables, sunbeds and the like are extended to the point where there is not a speck of free land left.

Given that the incidents of abuse of public space on beaches and other coastal areas topped the news this summer, with reactions from state services and residents, some crucial issues have arisen that are related to the proper operation of state services. That is because such enormous abuses mean that many government agencies (due to the shared competencies of state bodies), urban planning services, police, judiciary, municipalities and regional authorities, have not done their job properly.

It took an intervention by prosecutors, as we saw in the Cyclades, to bring some order to the chaos. Some decent efforts were made, but the situation has not changed at the national level. Public space continues to be brutally abused. Wouldn’t it be useful and possibly more effective, to finally start criminal proceedings against those in charge of government services that have been idle for years (if they are not doing something worse than we all suspect) and impose heavy fines on the municipalities as well? After all, they are the ones who rent out public space and they have an obligation to conduct checks. That would finally put an end to the blame game and the shifting of responsibilities that makes a mockery of the state and the citizens and favors those who flout the law.

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