The bid to control the illegal spread of sun beds, tables and chairs on Greek beaches is proving a losing battle again this summer as the state appears unable to compel businesses to follow the rules.
The severely understaffed authorities that monitor beaches claim that most businessmen flout the contracts they sign regarding the extent of their activities – sometimes taking up twice or three times the space they are allowed.
Moreover, many do not comply with their obligations to clean the area they use.
There have even been instances of people setting up businesses on the beach without having received permission to do so and without paying rent.
Holding offenders accountable, they say, could take up to two to three years due the maze of bureaucracy involved.
Greek beaches and coastal areas are owned by the state, which decides what their use will be.
A category of these coastal areas are leased by the state to local municipalities. These local authorities, in turn, sublease these areas to private businesses.
But this model has proven to be problematic as it has given rise to a spike in under-the-table dealings with vast amounts of money going undeclared.
Furthermore, beaches are only inspected for violations if someone has filed a complaint, and most authorities are wary of clashing with businessmen at the height of the summer tourist season.
“We cannot monitor beaches in the best possible way because time is wasted with irrelevant procedures,” said an official at a state-run office that monitors beaches on islands in the Cyclades.
The official, who asked to remain anonymous, said that 500 Cyclades beaches have been leased this year but none has been inspected.
He said that inspections are carried out by local police and that penalizing offenders could take time. “In my view, an express procedure should be implemented so that offenders are fined on the spot,” he said.