State to put price on its lost land

People who have taken possession of state land illegally may soon be able to buy the property, as the Economy and Finance Ministry is preparing legislation that could reap the state some 700 million euros, sources told Sunday’s Kathimerini. It is estimated that some 350,000 hectares of public land, divided into about 100,000 plots, has been illegally taken over by individuals. Although there have been laws passed since 1955 imposing fines on trespassers, land-grabbers seem to have acted with impunity. The government now appears to have opted for trying to get compensation for public land which has fallen into private hands. Officials at the Finance Ministry have been laboring over a draft law since last year which aims to set up a process allowing trespassers to buy the land. According to Sunday’s Kathimerini, the bill has almost been finalized. The bill will focus on the sale of some 180,000 hectares, which represents some 62,000 plots of public land. It will allow the encroachers to buy this land at the preferential rate of between 3,000 and 5,000 euros per hectare. However, for public officials to have an accurate picture of how much state land has been lost, the land registry needs to step up its work. As of the end of January, only 4.1 percent of the country’s land area had been entered onto the register. The government has promised to complete the register by 2010.

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