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Municipalities and communities of Greece

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The municipalities of Greece (Greek: δήμοι, dímoi) are the lowest level of government within the organizational structure of that country. Since the 2011 Kallikratis reform, there are 325 municipalities. Thirteen regions form the largest unit of government beneath the State. Within these regions are 74 second-level areas called regional units. Regional units are then divided into municipalities. The new municipalities can be subdivided into municipal units (δημοτικές ενότητες, dimotikes enotites, the old municipalities), which are subdivided into municipal communities (δημοτικές κοινότητες, dimotikés koinótites) or local communities (τοπικές κοινότητες, topikés koinótites).[1]

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Spain is a country that functions a lot like Federation, without actually being a federation. When the country is a federation, what that means is that it is a union of partially self-governing states under central government. This sounds like Spain, which along the countrywide government, has many autonomous communities that are self-governing. These include not only the communities in the iberian peninsula but also the insular territories such as one community for the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean, and another for the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa. The cities of Ceuta and Melilla on Morocco's side of the straight in north africa have special status as autonomous cities. While gibraltar on Spain side is not a part of Spain and instead and overseas territory of the UK. The autonomous communities were established during Spain's transition to democracy following the death of dictator Francisco Franco. The framers of the new spanish constitution in 1978 wanted to maintain a unified, indivisible, Spanish state. So they were careful to deliberately not make Spain a federation, but at the same time needed to keep the Galicians, Catalans, and Basques happy, who wanted more autonomy after being suppressed by highly centralized Franco Regime. Those communities can sometimes have powers that you even exceed those of states in Federation's. Some have recognized distinct nationalities, have their own official languages, and some even collect taxes independent of the spanish government. So in practice Spain behaves like a federation, but in theory the Constitution only guaranteed a process through which regions could become self-governing, but did not itself established or list the powers of these entities. Instead the regions would later gain their rights through a statute of autonomy, which is similar to the process of awarding devolved powers in non-federations called unitary states. This is an important distinction because in general the Constitutions of Federations clearly outline the division of powers between the federal government and the members. In unitary states the central government can change the powers of its sub-national divisions, while in Federation the federal government must respect the members rights and often constitutional reforms require consent from the members. But at the same time the members must respect the powers of the federal state and cannot unilaterally secede. This distinguishes Federation's from Confederations which are union of sovereign states which retain the right to secede at any time. For example, Spain is a member of the European Union with is like a confederation, since member states can leave by invoking article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon which established the EU. Spain's complicated internal structure is the result of its history. After the fall of the Roman Empire the local varieties of Latin used by the common people known as vulgar latin slowly diverged into the various Romance languages. For centuries the north of Iberia was split between many Christian kingdoms while the south was under Muslim rule. In each of the Christian kingdoms, vulgar latin diverged into different languages, such as Galician which is related to portuguese, Leonese, Aragonese, and Castilian, which are related to each other, and Catalan which is distantly related to French, but is more closely related to the Occitan language that exists in southern France before being mostly replaced by french. The basque language in the Pyrenees Mountains, is not a Romance language. It's not even in the indo-european language family of most modern European languages, and so it's likely descended from a language that existed in those mountains from before indo-european languages spread into Europe. The castilian language became dominant following its spread during the Reconquista, and became language of a unified Spanish kingdom and is commonly known as Spanish in other languages as well as among some Spanish speakers. However, Galician, Basque and Catalan identities remain strong so they were allowed to quickly established autonomous communities by the method outlined in the Constitution when Spain became a democracy. The rest of Spain gradually created their own autonomous communities and now the cover all of Spain's territory. The autonomous communities are composed of one or more provinces of spain, which are themselves composed of municipalities. This means most of Spain has four levels of government: municipal, provincial, the regional governments of the communities, and the national government. The autonomous cities in North Africa take on the powers of a municipality, province and a community. Some communities are large and cover many provinces, but some like Madrid, established specifically to make administering the capital easier, contain just one. In general all the communities have control over their finances and are in charge of education, health, and social services. But other powers are unequally distributed among the communities. Some communities have their own Civil Code, which means they have their own method of dealing with non-criminal legal decisions, and these communities have co-official languages along with Spanish: Galicia has Galician and basque is a co-official language in the Basque Country along with the Basque speaking areas of neighboring Navarre. Valencia has a variety of catalan called Valencian, and Catalan itself is co-official in the Balearic islands and Catalonia. Additionally Catalonia recognizes occitan as co-official as it is spoken by some in border regions. As well, Aragonese and Asturian are considered protected languages in their namesake regions, and both Asturian and Galician are protected in Castile and Leon. Catalonia, Navarre, and the Basque Country have their own police forces, while Navarre and the Basque Country are communities of chartered regime, which means they collect the taxes within their territory and then send a portion to the national government to cover its responsibilities. All the other communities are part of the common regime where the situation is reversed. Some communities notably catalonia want more powers devolved, and there are some desire in Spain to become fully federalized. But currently Spain is still technically a unitary state. If you enjoyed this video you might like this one about Russia or this one about Spain's tiny neighbor Andorra which speaks Catalan and has two princes: one is a bishop in Catalonia, and the other is the President of France.


Constitutional provisions for communities and municipalities

Article 102 of the Greek constitution outlines the mandate of municipalities and communities and their relationship to the larger State:

  • Municipalities and communities exercise administration of local affairs independently.
  • Leadership of municipalities and communities is elected by universal and secret ballot.
  • Municipalities may voluntarily or be mandated by law to work together to provide certain services, but elected representatives from the participating groups govern these partnerships.
  • The national Greek government supervises local government agencies, but is not to interfere in any local initiatives or actions.
  • The State is required to provide funds necessary to fulfill the mandate of local government agencies.

Organization of communities and municipalities

Administrative division of Greece following the "Kallikratis" reform: each colour denotes a region, regional units are outlined in black, and municipalities in white
Administrative division of Greece following the "Kallikratis" reform: each colour denotes a region, regional units are outlined in black, and municipalities in white

Communities are governed by a community council (simvoulio) made up of 7 to 11 members and led by a community president (proedros kinotitas). A deputy chairperson from a communal quarter (if the community has been further divided) may also take part in council meetings when specific issues of a communal interest are being discussed.

A municipal council (dimotiko simvoulio) and town hall committee led by a mayor (dimarchos) governs municipalities. Depending on the size of the municipality, municipal councils are made up of anywhere from 11 to 41 council members representing "municipal departments" (many of which were small communities that had been merged into the municipality). In addition, the council elects 2 to 6 town hall committee members. In the case of mergers, local village or town councils (like communal quarters) may still exist to provide feedback and ideas to the larger governing body.

Council members are elected via public election every four years on the basis of a party system. Three-fifths of all seats go to the party winning a plurality of the vote and the remaining two-fifths of the seats go to other parties based on their share of the vote on a proportional basis. The municipal council elects the town hall committee for a term of two years.

The State ultimately oversees the actions of local governments, but the Municipal and Communal Code still provides communities and municipalities with legal control over the administration of their designated areas.

Participation of citizens in local decision-making

Citizens have very few opportunities for direct participation in decision-making outside the elections held every four years. Beyond national referendums that may be called for critical issues, citizens cannot request local referendums. The only other possibility for direct input by citizens is if the local municipality establishes district councils or if the community president calls a people's assembly to discuss issues of concern. The organization of these public opportunities, however, is solely at the discretion of the community or municipal leadership.

Responsibilities of municipal governments

The Municipal and Communal Code (art. 24) states that municipalities and communities have responsibility for the administration of their local jurisdiction as it pertains to the social, financial, cultural and spiritual interests of its citizens. More specifically, communities and municipalities have responsibility for the following:

  • Security and police
  • Fire fighting
  • Civil protection
  • Nurseries and kindergartens
  • Repair and maintenance of all schools, including the issuing of permits
  • Adult education
  • Hospitals and health departments
  • Family and youth services
  • Rest homes
  • Public housing and town planning
  • Water and waste treatment
  • Cemeteries
  • Environmental protection
  • Theatres, museums, libraries
  • Parks, sports and leisure facilities
  • Urban road systems
  • Gas supplies
  • Irrigation
  • Farming and fishing
  • Commerce and tourism
  • Licensing certain business enterprises

Local government finances

Revenues come from both ordinary and extraordinary sources.

Ordinary revenue is derived from the State budget, property revenues, and established taxes and fees. By law, the State funds first level governments on the basis of a fixed formula: 20% of legal persons’ income tax, 50% of traffic duties and 3% of property transfer duties. For smaller populated communities and municipalities, the State has also allocated additional revenue based on other expenses (e.g. the cost of supplying water, maintaining road networks, and climate). Local governments are required to direct any property or resource fees to related expenses (e.g. drinking water fees must go towards the maintenance and improvement of the water system). Other forms of taxation or fines (e.g. parking fees) can be used wherever the government deems necessary.

Extraordinary revenue originates from sources like loans, inheritances, auctions, rents and fines.

Income generation is not limited to traditional service sources. Local governments can also initiate or participate in entrepreneurial activities that include a wide range of possible partnerships.

Each year communities and municipalities formulate their budgets in terms of expected revenues and expenses. Financial management and auditing is then based on this plan.

History of community and municipal governments

  • In 1831, the first governor of independent Greece, Ioannis Capodistrias administratively reorganized the Peloponnese into seven departments and the islands into six. These departments were then subdivided into provinces and, in turn, into towns and villages. Opponents to these reforms later assassinated Capodistrias.
  • The Constitution of 1952 (article 99) clearly identified the administrative role of municipal and community authorities.
  • The Constitution of the Hellenic Republic was established in 1975 and in article 102 stated that the first level of government were those of communities and municipalities.
  • Law 1416 was passed in 1984 to reinforce municipal authority over local government.
  • In 1986, the Constitution was modified with the addition of articles 101 and 102 that established local government parameters and relationships.
  • Presidential Decree 410 (Municipal and Communal Code) codified the legislation concerning municipalities and communities in 1995.
  • Law 2539 in 1997, named “Ioannis Kapodistrias,” took 441 municipalities and the 5382 communities and merged them into 900 municipalities and 133 communities. Newly merged municipalities and communities could further subdivide their territory into municipal or communal departments to give some local authority to merged areas.
  • Law 2647 in 1998 transferred responsibilities from the State to local authorities.
  • Law 3852 in 2010, named “Kallikratis,” took the 900 municipalities and the 133 communities and merged them into 325 municipalities. The new municipalities can subdivide their territory into municipal or local communities.

See also


  1. ^ Kallikratis law Greece Ministry of Interior (in Greek)

External links

  • "Devolution in Austria" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-06-09.
  • Structure and Operation of Local and Regional Democracy in Greece
  • Recent Administrative Reforms in Greece: Attempts Toward Decentralization, Democratic Consolidation and Efficiency
  • CityMayors article
This page was last edited on 28 October 2017, at 21:17
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