NEWS

Coastal development bill under fire

A draft law on coastal development prepared by Greece’s Finance Ministry that has come under fire from environmental activists was also slammed by a conservative deputy on Friday who said she would vote against the “monstrous” bill in Parliament.

The controversial bill lifts all current restrictions on the maximum area designated for beach concessions – such as bars, umbrellas and sun loungers – while abolishing the right to unhindered access to the coast for the public.

The proposed measures would also facilitate permanent constructions on beaches for commercial purposes, while making it possible for businesses to pay fines to legalize unlicensed constructions.

This last provision comes into conflict with the Environment Ministry’s ongoing campaign to demolish illegal buildings.

The ministry claims that the new framework will delineate the Greek coastline and simplify construction on and management of coastal areas. Friday was the last day of public consultation, launched on April 17.

Several environmental groups – including WWF Greece, the Hellenic Ornithological Society and Archelon, a sea turtle protection NGO – have argued that the proposed legislation will cause irreversible damage to Greece’s fragile ecosystem and in the long term damage its tourism sector.

“This draft law is a radical change for the worse of a long-standing, time-honored regime that protects the Mediterranean coast,” said George Chasiotis, legal coordinator at WWF Greece.

“Greece is opting for a piecemeal, perfunctory and environmentally destructive approach which will eventually not only degrade its natural heritage, but harm its tourist sector as well,” he said.

Criticism also came from within the government. Speaking on To Vima FM on Friday, New Democracy MP Fotini Pipili said the bill effectively rewards law-breakers.

“The bill is monstrous... I will certainly not vote for it in its current form,” she said.

A Facebook group page against the draft bill has already gathered more than 5,000 “likes” while hundreds have signed online petitions against the move.

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