Debate on illegal coastline structures heats up in parliament

Debate on illegal coastline structures heats up in parliament

A debate on the provisions of a draft bill that would pave the way for the legalization of illegally built structures on Greek shores continued in the Parliament’s production and trade committee on Thursday, with the government facing stiff opposition from NGOs and experts.

Criticism focused on the possible legalisation of illegal construction by large businesses and hotels.

“Instead of honoring the people and businesses who respect environmental law, we continue to reward illegality,” said Theodota Nantsou, head of policy at WWF Greece, on the first day of the debate on Wednesday.

Nantsou said the provisions in question are a slippery slope with unknown consequences.

The same view was echoed by the head of the Association of Rural and Surveying Engineers, Mihalis Kaloyiannakis who spoke at the committee. “Given that it [the bill] also includes those who do not have a permit to use the coast, it means that it will not only legalize those who built illegal constructions, but also people who have encroached on the land,” he told the committee.

Defending the provisions of the bill, Deputy Finance Minister Katerina Papanatsiou said the government has no intention of legalizing structures that do not have an environmental permit or do not fulfil certain conditions.

Meanwhile, Greece’s 14 biggest environmental groups (Greenpeace, Medasset, Mom, WWF, ANIMA, Arctouros, Archelon, Ornithological Society, Hellenic Society for Environment and Culture, Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature, Society for the Protection of Prespes, Mediterranean SOS Network, Callisto and the Ecological Recycling Society) have called on Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to withdraw the provisions.

“Such provisions will surely lead to the definitive and complete alteration of the morphology of our country’s coastline, will limit people’s free access of to the shore, will essentially abolish the constitutionally guaranteed public use of the coast and, having as their sole purpose the collection of taxes, will collectively and forever reward illegality,” they said in a joint letter to Tsipras.

The new bill’s provisions stipulate the legalization of structures built before July 28 2011 – belonging to businesses that have benefited from growth and development laws and are contracted to the public sector, the National Tourism Organization (EOT) or a local authority.

Given the ease with which these seaside enterprises can receive state subsidies, this could also eventually lead to the legalization of the overwhelming majority of constructions. 

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