MICHALIS DEKLERIS – Draft paper ‘unconstitutional’

The provisions of the draft bill presented by the government are «unconstitutional,» «dangerous» and «serve other purposes,» according to Michalis Dekleris, honorary vice president of the Council of State, president of the Environmental Sustainability Chamber, and a judge who has devoted his life to protecting the environment. Dekleris’s first objection is that the bill alters the definitions of forest and forestland, away from the existing definition in Article 24 of the Constitution. «The definition in the Constitution is systemic and scientific and does not have the limitations the lawmaker is now introducing,» says Dekleris. «It is full and detailed and needs no further definition. Any further attempt to define it is unconstitutional and serves other purposes. In short, it aims at excluding areas that really are forested from constitutional protection.» Dekleris argues that the Constitution adopted the legal definition and that the meaning of the word forest is scientific, not political. He believes that any doubts should be resolved by recourse to the opinion of experts in forest ecology. «The Constitution does not stipulate a minimum area of a forest,» explains Dekleris, «but mentions ‘requisite area,’ which is a matter for experts to decide in each case, according to the characteristics of the forest system in question.» «It should also be taken into account that forests are publicly owned in Greece,» Dekleris insists, «because they were taken from the Sultan ‘by means of war and confiscation.’ Hence, they belong to the State, which is not the usual form of ownership that is had by private owners. There may be private forests in areas that did not come to the Greek State by means of war, but by some other means, as on the Ionian Islands, Evia and Crete. «Nor is the provision of use over a 20-year period – which applies in private legal cases – applicable here because public ownership is inalienable. So the proof of public ownership of forests which has applied up till now is correct, as long as Ottoman contracts do not show they were owned by private individuals. «It’s wrong to introduce amendments that contradict this principle, and a previous bill that forbade forestry officials from invoking state ownership of forests in the Land Register was very wrong. «The provisions dealing with the matter of ‘overgrown farmlands’ are dangerous, to say the least, because there are no ‘overgrown farmlands,’ only forests. All forest systems are dynamic. The question has been resolved and the lawmakers’ intervention is unconstitutional.»