NEWS

Gov't freezes controversial coastline bill

The government on Tuesday essentially froze a controversial bill designed to lift restrictions on construction along the country’s coastline following vehement protests from across the political spectrum, including objections by junior coalition partner PASOK and environmental protection groups.

State Minister Dimitris Stamatis, a close aide to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, issued a statement declaring that the government would “shape its final position” on the bill after the upcoming local authority and European Parliament elections as the premier wanted public consultation on the draft bill to be “exhaustive.”

The public consultation, which was launched during the Easter break and extended to May 13, drew more than 900 comments, most of them critical.

Stamatis’s intervention came amid speculation that the bill would be amended rather than withdrawn by the Finance Ministry which drafted it and has come under fire from several prominent MPs – including New Democracy lawmakers Fotini Pipili and Dora Bakoyannis and Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis – as well as PASOK and virtually all Greece’s conservation groups, including WWF Greece.

The head of WWF Hellas, Dimitris Karavelas, is to meet on Wednesday with the ministry’s general secretary for public property, Avraam Gounaris, at the latter’s behest, to discuss the protesters’ objections to the bill. Karavelas is expected to give Gounaris a petition with some 100,000 signatures of people who oppose the proposed reform.

In its current form, the legislation lifts all existing restrictions on the maximum area designated for beach concessions such as bars, umbrellas and sun loungers while banning 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 allowing businesses to pay fines to legalize unlicensed constructions. In its defense, the ministry had claimed that the new framework would delineate the Greek coastline and simplify construction in and management of coastal areas.

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