Threat to forestland

The way has been opened for the declassification of forestland in areas also outside the city limits by placing the burden of proof on the State to show that it owns a particular stretch of land, rather than on the ordinary citizen, as was recently suggested in Parliament. The change would apply to land that was once characterized as forestland (grass meadows, expanses covered in holm oak) but has since been built on. Or so Environment, Public Works and Planning Minister Vasso Papandreou seemed to hint at during last Wednesday’s late-night parliamentary debate on the land register bill. This conclusion emerged during a sharp and lengthy interjection by ex-Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis, who spoke of the «irrational forest wardens» who insisted on characterizing the Cycladic Islands and other inhabited areas as forestland. He vehemently demanded that the environment minister draft an amendment to resolve the issue, for areas both beyond city limits as well as within city bounds. «We will never draw up a land register if we don’t solve this issue,» the ex-prime minister said, «and Agriculture Minister Giorgos Drys, to whom I said this, promised me he would bring forward an amendment that would apply to forestland beyond the city limits.» «Indeed, there is a problem… The Greek State has been locked in a struggle with itself since its inception, as, despite the 4,000 laws and articles that have been voted in to solve the issue, the problems remain,» Vasso Papandreou replied. Doing away with the necessity of proving ownership of land in areas outside the city limits, or placing the onus on the State «does not confront a problem of unconstitutionality, though there are other problems,» she said. «That’s why it’s imperative to have studies and a cross-party consensus.» Some people would emerge winners, she predicted, but not to the detriment of others. «Nevertheless, there are a number of issues, such as that of church property. Patmos, for example, is a madhouse, and we can’t haul all the inhabitants into court,» she concluded. From this statement she made clear, if somewhat obliquely, that she was prepared to look on the change favorably.

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