Committee rejects ministry’s tourism plan

A committee of experts appointed to assess a controversial government bill aimed at boosting the country’s tourism infrastructure yesterday rejected it in what was widely seen as a victory for the environmental groups that have been lobbying against the plan. The government does not actually need the committee’s approval to vote the legislation through Parliament but the Environment and Public Works Ministry, which drafted the bill, was keen to gain the experts’ backing in a bid to silence protesters who fear the plan’s impact on pristine coastlines and nature reserves. Of the 19 members on the committee, which includes conservationists, architects and civil engineers, nine voted against it. Two more said they would only approve the plan if several amendments were made. The member representing Greek hoteliers abstained. The remaining seven experts, chiefly representing local authorities and business interests, had expressed support for the plan. Tensions reportedly peaked several times during the discussion of the plan. At one point, sources said, the ministry’s general secretary Vangelis Baltas grabbed a document, containing amendments proposed by the nine committee members who rejected the plan, and tore it up.