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Serres defends its former military assets

06 March 2017

Interview with the Mayor of Serres on the Municipality's engagement to create awareness on property and use of its military camps and barracks. 

In the past few months, the Municipality of Serres – Greek partner of the URBACT MAPS network, has been enaged in an important campaign to raise awareness on the administrative and political agreements concerning the property and use of the former military assets on its territory: the Lefkona depots, Emmamouil Papa and Papalouka camps.

We talked about it with the mayor of Serres, Mr Petros Angelidis.

 

Let’s take a step back in time. How did it all begin?

On the 15th of March, 2012, the Ministry of Defence accepted an agreement with the Council concerning the exploitation of the three areas, for the mutual benefit of both the National government and the city itself. 

Between 2012 and 2015, the Municipality of Serres continued to work in cooperation with the Ministries of Defence and Environment, in order to complete the approval procedures for urban planning studies regarding Emmanouil Papa and Papalouka camps. The further aim was to reach a final agreement with the Ministry of Defence, stating the concession of 270 acres of land, i.e. a large part of the 315 total acres summing up the local military assets.

What were the problems encountered?

According to the new law that was voted in Parliament on the 21st of July, 2016, after a political change in its leadership, the Ministry of Defence is now to rent the former military camps to Municipalities to more than 5% of the objective estate value.

Serres City council formally requested to be exempted by the effects of the new regulations, implementing instead the existing agreement with the Ministry of Defence in compliance with law n. 2745, approved in 1999 and still in force.

How has the situation evolved?

In January 2017, after many attempts and visits to the National Defence Fund in Athens, the delegation from Serres registered a positive twist. Following a series of tough negotiations, the procedure regarding the concession of Emmanouil Papa and Papalouka camps to the Municipality of Serres has been completed, giving response to the expectations and whishes that citizens and stakeholders had been expressing for a few decades. The agreement establishes a rule also for commercial activities based in any of the two camps, stating that the Ministry of Defence is entitled to a 10% share of net profits.

As for the Lefkona depots, in the area of which the Riding Club has been successfully operating for many years, the National Defence Fund decided to concede them a long-lasting concession with a nominal rent.

Was the local community actively involved?

In this effort, all the County Deputies helped us and I would like to thank them for their assistance in obtaining the grant for the camps located in Serres Municipality. The contribution of the major and minor opposition groups was also valuable. I am grateful to all the people who have supported the resolution concerning the camps.

In addition, stakeholders regularly kept alive the debate on the subject, with reports and statements published by the local press, constantly supporting the full concession of the military camps. Last but not least, the members of our URBACT Local Group never doubted about our aims and supported the team entirely.

Do you feel that being part of the URBACT program helped to solve the situation?

We firmly believe that participation of Serres Municipality in the European network of URBACT MAPS will bring numerous benefits to our city. First of all, confronting ourselves with other Councils from different Countries gave us the opportunity to realize that other cities face similar problems to ours, which motivated us not to give up and continue working, instead, to overcome the obstacles we had to deal with.

Moreover, the knowledge we can gain by sharing information and experiences with the other partners can be a very important tool in the management and development of our camps. Not to mention, finally, that joining the URBACT MAPS network enables us to be ready to seize the corresponding European programs centred on the exploitation of disused areas and buildings.