46th Congress of the European Regional Science Association: "Enlargement, Southern Europe and the Mediterranean", August 30th - September 3rd, 2006, Volos, Greece
The fragmentation of local government structures (more than 120 municipalities), combined with the traditional 'sectoral federalism' within a centralist state, the lack of visible democratic legitimacy and political responsibility for the whole region, could not foster the implementation of coherent policies for the metropolitan area of Athens. For a long period, the rising socioeconomic complexity combined to a growing deficit of social capital and urban identity, as well as to several self-referential organizations and particularistic interests had led to a series of failures and blockades. The governability-problems of Athens have been a legend for many years. Economic recovery and an unprecedented mobilization due to the city's nomination for the Olympic Games (in 1996), gave new hope to citizens and stakeholders that had continually been frustrated. Large-scaled projects (with pressing needs for private capital and expertise), a growing voluntary sector and self-confident local leaders shaped new, more "open" networks of metropolitan policies. The success of new, result-oriented metropolitan coalitions in and for Athens has in deed been remarkable: The "face and the image of the city" has drastically changed, while the achievement of effectively organizing the games in a small country should not be under-estimated. The "mega-project" of the Games created a strong public awareness, new platforms and new agendas of public deliberation. During the games, the city revealed the "hidden treasure" of Athenian civil society that proved to be much stronger than expected. Soon after, the need to conceptualize a 'modern' scheme of metropolitan governance became a part of the political debate. The need for metropolitan reform is widely accepted but public debate on alternative scenarios seems to postpone the starting point. For the moment, the danger of a "back to normal business"-effect is growing. An environment of non-continuity and disruption, distrust and non-transparency seems to rise again. How could the perspective of metropolitan integration through governance be still kept alive in Athens? How are the positive effects of "mega-projects" for metropolitan governance to be evaluated and further advantaged in cases like the one of Athens?