Greece’s Supreme Court has ordered an investigation into reports that beach bars are occupying and operating illegally on a number of beaches.
Last month, more than 250 Paros residents protested against the unregulated spread of privately run sunbeds and umbrellas on the island’s beaches.
“We kicked off the campaign at a beach we consider emblematic as there is no question of legal leasing here. The Paros Municipal Council decided earlier this year not to auction any part of the beach as it is a Natura site. Yet 80-85 percent of tiny Santa Maria is covered in loungers,” Damianos Gavalas, a protester, told Greek daily Kathimerini.
The protest came as part of a recently created “Paros Citizens’ Movement for Free Beaches”, which is aiming to raise awareness and attract attention to dozens of violations including the placement of sunbeds along the shore (shoreline use laws) as well as the operation of beach bars without permits.
The number of complaints concerning the placement of hundreds of sunbeds on beaches across Greece has been increasing. On Serifos, the island’s mayor Kostas Revinthis had filed a complaint concerning a beach bar operation that was illegal.
“The business is operating illegally with arbitrary buildings and without a beach use permit,” he said, adding that the municipal authority had shut down the operation only to see it open again.
Among others, the prosecutor said: “Regarding the complaints that also concern the occupation of sections of the beach on Paros, without the conditions of the law and the obstruction of the public’s free access to the beaches, we remind you of number 10/4-5-2023 of our circular and request its exact implementation”.
Three years ago, the Greek Tourism Ministry had announced a draft bill laying out the provisions for the development of diving and golf tourism. Among others, the legislation set out terms and amended previous legal restrictions regarding public forest, land and shoreline use for the development of tourism enterprises.
A year earlier in 2019, environmentalists and awareness-raising groups, including WWF Greece, warned that the new shoreline use law would have “catastrophic effects” and described it as a “premeditated crime”.
According to WWF Greece, the said shoreline bill with particular emphasis on Article 34 was in effect “opening the door to the mass legalization of violations both on the beach and in the sea”.
In 2021, an amendment to the shoreline use law gave rooms to let the right to use the beach for the rental of sea sport equipment, placement of tables and chairs, umbrellas and recliners for public use without restrictions.