NEWS

Tourism bill under the microscope

A controversial government bill aimed at boosting the tourism sector, which environmental groups have condemned as a plan to overdevelop pristine coastlines and nature reserves, is to be discussed in Parliament today by a committee of experts. The experts had been examining the provisions of the bill in December but proceedings were suspended after 10 environmental groups submitted a written complaint expressing their outrage at the possible implications of the plan, sources have told Kathimerini. According to the same sources, officials of the Environment and Public Works Ministry have been trying to woo environmental groups, claiming that clear terms will be in place to prevent excessive construction. The government does not actually need the committee’s approval to vote the legislation through Parliament. Still it is thought that a negative assessment by the committee, which comprises environmentalists, civil engineers and trade unionists, would fuel protesters’ objections. In view of this, it is thought likely that the committee will propose certain amendments to the bill today. Environmentalists have expressed their determination to fight the plan, which they fear will spoil Greece’s pristine coastline with large-scale development of the type that has destroyed much of Spain and Portugal. By way of petition they have garnered 6,500 signatures, many from celebrities, and are demanding the withdrawal of the plan. «We will use all legal means to block this scheme,» said Kriton Arsenis of the Hellenic Society for the Protection of the Environment and Cultural Heritage. The ministry insists that the plan will boost the country’s tourism sector alongside rural development and that clear regulations will prevent local authorities and investors from excessive development. Nevertheless, there are some cases where construction is allowed in European Union-protected areas and on uninhabited islands.