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Italian mayors who donated their salaries to Greece on a visit to Athens

29 February 2012 / 18:02:14  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

The Italian mayors Marco Galdi and Giovanni Moskatielo are on a visit to Athens at the invitation of the Central Union of Municipalities in Greece. They are the mayors of Cava de’ Tirreni and Baronisi and they have symbolically gave their salaries to express their support for the country and founded the solidarity movement "Magna Graecia".

The Union of Municipalities have organized a press conference at which mayors from Italy and Greece announced their intent to establish a European network of municipalities. It will aim to return Europe to its founding values - solidarity and social cohesion.

"We are trying to connect the Italian, Greek and the municipalities in other European countries. The initiative has a major goal - to express our gratitude to the Greek people for everything it has given civilization," said Marco Galdi, university professor by profession.

"Without the millennial Greek history, wealth and wisdom of today's Europe would not exist. No to Europe without Greece. No to European policies without prospects of development," added his colleague Giovanni Moskatielo. He called for the imposition of transparency, the principle of equal taxation, giving priority to employment of young people and women and greater European political and cultural integration with a parallel emphasis on the role of the European Parliament.

It became clear at the press conference that mayors in Italy continue their professional activities after being elected, while the law requires their Greek counterparts to end their occupation. "We have already placed the issue of eliminating this restriction to the administration of the Ministry of Interior. We collected 130 signatures out of 325 mayors in the country. We believe that if we are given the opportunity to be engaged in our professions, our salaries will drop and thus the government could save these amounts, stated the chairman of the Union and the mayor of the Athens suburb of Kallithea Konstantinos Askounis.
Currently, the net salary of a mayor of a municipality with more than 100 000 inhabitants is 2,941 euro, of a municipality with population between 20,000 and 100,000 inhabitants - 2,353 euro and of a municipality with inhabitants fewer than 20,000 - 1,765 euro. One of these was deducted last year. The same will happen in 2012 too.

Konstantinos Askounis presented Eurostat data to show that local governments cost the treasury 3.1% of GDP. "This is the lowest percentage across the European Union except for Cyprus and Malta. It is clear that the Greek municipalities neither had played, nor could they play a role in triggering the economic crisis," he said. Greek mayors rejected the attacks that local governments have accumulated large loans to banks, including foreign ones, over the years. "Yes, there are municipalities with large debts, but the total debts of them all amount to just 0.7% of GDP."

The mayor of Kallithea said that in the last two years, funding of municipalities has decreased by 51%. "All investment programmes for municipal projects were suspended. The local administration budget for 2012 provides for just less than 1.8 billion euro, while in 2009, the amount was double." According to the mayors, if the budget cuts in local governments are implemented in the state apparatus, Greece will have primary surpluses, "therefore, there will be no need for additional austerity measures."

From 5,880 in 2010, municipal companies have become 1,138 in 2011. This has led to a dramatic drop in costs. Although the powers of former district offices have been transferred to municipalities as well as part of the staff, 4,839 employees left in 2010 - 2011.

During the meeting, the mayors exchanged certificates and souvenirs. The guests from Italy expressed their gratitude for the warm welcome and stressed the need for Greece to be supported by Europe. "They say that the Greeks have no brothers. Referring to the importance of Greek culture, I could say that we are all children of Greece. Your story is our story. Once, when I was at the monument of Leonidas, I cried for the 300th Spartans who had given their lives for their culture, which is the beginning of European culture. I hope the Europeans will follow their example and save Greece and Europe," said Marco Galdi.

The two mayors from Italy gave the symbolic amount of 1,880 euro initially for a year. The money will be transferred to the Hellenic Red Cross and their spending will be controlled.

Tags: PoliticsMayorsMunicipalitiesMarco GaldiGiovanni MoskatieloMayoral salariesSolidarity
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