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Greek Government “Freezes” Controversial Draft Coastal Development Bill

Photo: Ladislav Bihari / Shutterstock

Photo: Ladislav Bihari / Shutterstock

A controversial draft bill on coastal development prepared by the Finance Ministry has been temporarily “frozen” by the Greek Government following reactions of environmental organizations, citizens and even MPs.

The draft bill, among other provisions, lifts all restrictions on the maximum area designated for constructions for business purposes (beach bars, umbrellas, sun beds) and abolishes the unrestricted right of free access to beaches by the public.

Upon announcing the “freeze” of the draft bill, State Minister Dimitris Stamatis said the government wants public consultation on the draft bill to be “thorough” and added that the government would take a final position after the European Parliament elections (25 May) after examining results and conclusions. The public consultation on the draft bill ended on 13 May.

The head of WWF Greece, Demetres Karavellas, hands over the petition launched by AVAAZ.ORG to the general secretary for public property of the Greek Finance Ministry, Avraam Gounaris. The poster accompanying the petition reads: "111,930 citizens say: Save our beaches." Photo © WWF Greece

The head of WWF Greece, Demetres Karavellas, hands over the petition launched by AVAAZ.ORG to the general secretary for public property of the Greek Finance Ministry, Avraam Gounaris. The poster accompanying the petition reads: “111,930 citizens say: Save our beaches.” Photo © WWF Greece

Environmental groups take action

Once the draft bill was initially put up for public consultation, the environmental protection group WWF Greece had asked Greek MPs to block the “ecologically criminal” bill claiming that it would damage Greece’s tourism sector in the long term.

Open discussion of "Stop the Destruction of Greek coastline" group - Panel 1: Margarita Karavasili, Observatory society on Sustainable Development (CISD); Angela Lazou, Greenpeace; Theodota Nantsou, WWF Hellas; Yiorgos Politis, Greek Society for the Protection of Nature "Elliniki Etaireia"; Andreas Petropoulos, Society for Environmental Law; and Vaggelis Paravas  Hellenic Society for the Study & Protection of the Monk Seal (MOm). Photo © GTP

Open discussion of “Stop the Destruction of Greek coastline” group – Panel 1: Margarita Karavasili, Observatory society on Sustainable Development (CISD); Angela Lazou, Greenpeace; Theodota Nantsou, WWF Hellas; Yiorgos Politis, Greek Society for the Protection of Nature “Elliniki Etaireia”; Andreas Petropoulos, Society for Environmental Law; and Vaggelis Paravas Hellenic Society for the Study & Protection of the Monk Seal (MOm). Photo © GTP

On 14 May, the head of the protection group, Demetres Karavellas, met with the finance ministry’s general secretary for public property, Avraam Gounaris, and handed over a petition launched by AVAAZ.ORG with 111,930 signatures of people that opposed the bill.

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“Greece needs a really clear, effective, feasible and necessary protective bill for the country’s coastal zone, one according to scientific criteria. The draft bill put up for public consultation is light years away from this,” WWF Greece said in an announcement.

The draft bill also makes it possible for businesses to simply pay fines to legalize unlicensed constructions on Greek beaches. Meanwhile, the Greek Environment Ministry has an ongoing campaign to demolish illegal constructions including ones on beaches.

Open discussion of "Stop the Destruction of Greek coastline" group - Panel 2: Margarita Karavasili, Observatory Society on Sustainable Development (CISD); Evangelos Koukiasis, Mediterranean SOS; Stella Kyvelou, SDMed;  Christos Anagnostou, Greek Center for Marine Research; and Fotis Kokotos, Elounda Real Estate Development, SETE. Photo © GTP

Open discussion of “Stop the Destruction of Greek coastline” group – Panel 2: Margarita Karavasili, Observatory Society on Sustainable Development (CISD); Evangelos Koukiasis, Mediterranean SOS; Stella Kyvelou, SDMed;
Christos Anagnostou, Greek Center for Marine Research; and Fotis Kokotos, Elounda Real Estate Development, SETE. Photo © GTP

On its part, the Society for the Environment and Cultural heritage “Elliniki Etairia,” said that a prerequisite for Greece’s economic recovery is to encourage investments that are friendly to the environment and the local community.

“The country’s unique environment is its prime comparative advantage and its protection is a growth driver,” the group said.

“Elliniki Etairia” underlined that Greece’s natural wealth should be preserved and not destroyed permanently under the excuse of “business development” based on a model that has already been proved to be a failure (having been implemented in other countries such as Spain and Ireland).

According to the group, the draft bill ignores European and national legislation, which require the protection of the coastal zone (i.e. the protocol on Integrated Coastal Zone Management).

Greek tourism sector voices opinion

After having examined the draft bill on coastal development put up for public consultation, including the some 900 comments made in regards to its content, the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) released a statement on the matter.

“The aim (of the bill) should be in the direction of balanced development, improvement of the living standards of society and protection of the environment,” the association said.

SETE stated that the association is in favor of quality tourism development. “The framework of the draft bill is moving in the right direction as to the necessity of identifying coastal setback lines, reducing red tape, facilitating the licensing procedures for beach concessions and the implementation of projects that could be carried out on beaches by hotels,” SETE said.

However, the association underlined that Greek lawmakers must reply to all concerns that have arisen from environmental organizations and citizens.

“Answers must be documented and given without haste so as to create the legislative requirements for the desired quality tourism development, while respecting the environment, the public nature of the coasts and the citizens’ free access to them,” SETE added.


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