Greece is at risk of losing both the wood and the trees with a new bill to be released shortly
The Agriculture Ministry, denying that it is changing land use classification or legalizing land grabbing, is making a desperate attempt to allow loopholes to be artfully included in the new forestry law. Right after Thursday’s Cabinet meeting, where, according to Agriculture Minister Giorgos Drys, the bill had been unanimously approved, the full text of the bill was not released apart from the «essential changes» selected for release by the government in order to test the waters. The entire bill is expected to be released this coming week, according to the ministry leadership. After the Cabinet meeting, Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos defended the bill, claiming that it was «simply a law implementing the Constitution, something which we are obliged to issue» and that it was not for campaign or other petty partisan purposes. Nevertheless, opposition parties and other organizations have expressed strong opposition to the bill, which appears to herald the death of many forests. The altered definition of forest and forested areas provided for in the bill allows for a «reclassification» of these areas wherever this is asked for. The use of aerial photographs from 1960 instead of those from 1945, meanwhile, will lead to the declassification of 500,000-700,000 hectares of forest, according to forestry experts, and 1.5 to 2 million hectares of meadows. When asked to specify which areas the new provisions apply to, the ministry leadership could not do so. While the new bill provides for a speedy mapping of the country’s forests, forest maps only exist for 341 communities out of a total of 115,000. Reservations have also been expressed as to whether the new bill is constitutional. The government says it will respect the decisions of the Council of State.