Grigoria Protolati is completing her third year as Eparchos of Paros and Antiparos. She is head of the Eparcheio, the local authority elected by the people to represent the subprefecture of Paros and Antiparos at the district council of the Nomarchy (Prefecture) of the Cycladic islands, based in Syros, the capital of the Cyclades.
Grigoria grew up on Paros and left the island after finishing her secondary education in order to study law in Athens. But in the years that followed she always kept in touch with Paros and included cases from the island in her professional career as a lawyer. She has been involved in politics from her student years, but this is the first time that she holds an official position as a representative of Paros and Antiparos in the Nomarchy of the Cyclades.
The Eparcheio of Paros and Antiparos consists of five councillors of the Nomarchy (Grigoria Protolati, Yiorgos Kanganis, Yannis Maounis, Chrysanthos Bafitis and Vassilis Lianopoulos). Their role is to put forward their decisions on issues and projects that concern the two islands during meetings of the district council.
There is no real differentiation between the responsibilities of the Eparcheio and the Municipality of Paros. Both manage projects of infrastructure on the island and both offer services to the citizens. One may only add that the Municipality works solely on a local level, whilst the Eparcheio is part of an authority that is responsible for all the Cycladic islands. There is no hierarchy in the relation between the two local authorities; their work is rather supplementary. Both degrees of local authority, however, are under the supervision of the South Aegean Precinct, whose head is the General Secretary, a position appointed by the government. On Paros and Antiparos, the Eparcheio is therefore responsible for the projects that are carried out by the Nomarchy.
One of Grigoria Protolati's main goals when she began her service was to create an efficient office of the Nomarchy on Paros, qualified to provide services to the citizens and to carry out tasks that up until now could only be done on Syros, causing setbacks and delays mainly of a bureaucratic nature.
During a recent meeting we held with her, she described the departments that have been upgraded and created in the Eparcheio during the past couple of years in order to improve services to the citizens of Paros and Antiparos.
For example, the local department of the Ministry of Transport now works nearly independently on Paros and is able to provide all required documents. The recently created 'Department of Health Care' is responsible for the less fortunate groups of the population, such as the handicapped, indigent and unemployed.
"The government provides a significant amount in allowances to support these citizens. However few have been aware of these benefits due to lack of communication and information from Syros," Grigoria explained.
A social worker has been employed in the department along with a health officer, since another responsibility of the office is to control and inspect the hygiene in caf?s, restaurants and hotels in order to provide them with the licence to operate.
"You can imagine that before today many businesses had to wait up to six months for the health officers from Syros to come and perform inspections before they could acquire their operating license."
Another important department that is being prepared is the office responsible for city planning. Until now these issues were the concern of the Eparcheio of Naxos. Grigoria is confident that the existence of such an office on Paros will be effective in restricting illegal building and generally unauthorised constructions.
"Control, inspection, and the application of the law will be immediate; a factor necessary for defeating the anarchy in building that is expanding on the islands. However, it is necessary that the land planning study of Paros and Antiparos should first be completed, so that control can be successful."
The technical department of the Eparcheio is involved with the supervision of projects carried out on Paros and Antiparos by the Nomarchy. At the moment there are three major projects underway or just beginning on the islands. The first is the anchorage in Naoussa that will have the capacity to accommodate 80 yachts. According to the agenda, the project must be completed within 14 months from its start. "Our aim is to complete it by the next tourist season. It's a project that the local authorities on Paros have been struggling to achieve for the past ten years."
The second important project is environmental. With the purpose of maintaining and improving the water resources on the island, the project of a dam at the river Vrondas is progressing rapidly.
The third project, and the most important for the young citizens of Paros, is the construction of a modern technical college and this project is due to begin shortly, as soon as the agreement with the contractor is signed.
In reply to our questions about the plans for the construction of a separate port for cargo ships, it was explained that this project is being delayed indefinitely.
"The Ministry of Environment and Public Projects is responsible for this work and I have requested from them all the documents involved in order to figure out the situation. When we receive all the information we will invite the citizens to an assembly so that we can explain the circumstances and propose further action.
"Our purpose is to deliver the projects that have begun by the end of our four years in office, along with fulfiling the other responsibilities of the Eparcheio, such as improving the road network. Beyond that we have to plan for the future in cooperation with the other authorities on Paros.
"Because of the high economical development on only three islands of the South Aegean, Paros and Antiparos are not eligible for the financial benefits of the 4th E.U. Funding Programme and unfortunately this cannot be altered. It is unjust, since Paros, Antiparos, and many other Cycladic islands have not yet reached a satisfactory level of development. We will therefore have to claim the funding that was due for the islands from national resources".