While any European government cheerleader would tell you that the sacrifices Greece has endured were the right way to go, the truth is that the country is worse today than it was before austerity and cutbacks were applied by Brussels.
Unlike most Greek politicians, the mayor of Athens, Yorgos Kaminis a constitutionalist himself says things with substance when he speaks out.
For example, that Greece is bankrupt, economically, administratively and politically speaking, or that neo-Nazi’s are on the rise through the appearance of the Golden Dawn party.
Unlike politicians also vilified their country, Kaminis walks the streets freely, with a discreet security detail, and talks to people who address him without restriction. He did this Saturday while visiting a solidarity event in a stadium in Piraeus.
“Of course I am accessible, how not to be as a mayor,” replies Kaminis; “The time of traditional politicians has passed, many of them do not dare to go out but I have no fear, I must be close to the people and be a citizen. If it was available when I was a teacher, then as ombudsman, much more now. “
The municipalities need fiscal autonomy. They do not want to live governed by a central state.
Among handshakes and memories of his time as a researcher at the Center for Constitutional Studies in Madrid, the independent Kaminis, mayor since 2010 of a traditionally conservative stronghold, was re-elected in May with the support from left wing voters.
“Not all politicians are the same, there are huge responsibilities due to the crisis,”he says
If this country still stands, it is thanks to local authorities, who are living the crisis closer. It is among us, in our streets … The State has shown its limits, it is bankrupt, not only economically, but also administratively and politically.”
Kaminis speech sounds especially challenging because it has a neo-Nazi at home, after winning 16% of the vote in the last municipal elections, one of the councilors and party spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris, was imprisoned with the rest of the people who attended the meeting of the council with special permission. The other is Urania Mijaloliakos, daughter of the leader of AD, also in prison.
But intolerance toward the other is not listed in Kaminis agenda. The Athens City Council deals with some of the hundreds of Syrian refugees protesting for weeks before Parliament, sheltered under plastic sheeting, to demand better living conditions, a claim which the government says can not attend because they have not sought asylum formally.
“We are obliged to respond,” says Kaminis; “We have sent 50 refugees to homes and shelters we have for homeless and abused women. It is a sacrifice but we can not let them spend their lives outdoors“.
Both the Syrians and Greek families supported by the city, 26 in two buildings, “do not give alms, but an active solidarity; provide them with whatever they really need, but also help them find work and get ahead. “
But how? What money can be used if the budget is increasingly scarce? “We do not ask for a single euro, but we ask for something else.
Local councils need more powers, especially fiscal autonomy to be held accountable to our constituents. I want to receive the property tax, like other European cities do. I do not want free things from the State“.
On day 3, Athens, together with Thessaloniki, was included in the group of the 35 most resilient cities, which will join the initiative “100 Resilient Cities” of the Rockefeller Foundation, which aims to encourage cities that face particular socio-economic situations. Mayor Kaminis sure had something to do.