Court deems law on illegal buildings unconstitutional

The Council of State, Greece’s highest administrative court, on Friday threw the government’s plans to semi-legalize properties built without full permission, by deeming that legislation passed in 2011 was unconstitutional.

The law encouraged the owners of buildings that had been built or extended without permits to put the properties in order by paying a fine that would protect their assets from any legal action or demolition for 40 years.

However, judges said that this went counter to Article 24 of the Greek Constitution, which deems that all construction should adhere to town planning. They said that this rule should only be by-passed in exceptional circumstances and the government’s need to collect revenues could not be considered such.

The court recommended that the process be canceled and the money paid in fines by citizens should be returned.

In anticipation of such a decision, the government passed a new law this year, which continues to allow homeowners to pay penalties to semi-legalize their properties. The court is due to examine this legislation as well.

Also on Friday, the court deemed unconstitutional the first transfer of civil servants into a labor pool, which took place in 2011.

The government is currently trying to place 12,500 public sector workers in a similar scheme, where they will receive 75 percent of their pay for a maximum of eight months while another position is sought for them. Those who are left without new positions will be dismissed. Four thousand civil servants will lose their jobs this year and 11,000 in 2014.

The court said that the 2011 scheme did not respect the constitutional rights of equality or meritocracy as it affected only civil servants that were close to retirement age. Judges ruled that civil servants can only be dismissed without evaluation if they have been found guilty of an offense or if they have served the maximum number of years.

The court also overturned a government decision from November 2011 that placed 239 judiciary staff in the labor pool after abolishing their positions.

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