NEWS

Souflias defends tourism proposal

Environment and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias yesterday described as «correct and necessary» the provisions of a controversial plan to boost the country’s tourism infrastructure following the approval of the draft legislation by a government committee. The bill, rejected by an expert committee appointed to assess its impact on the environment in February, is expected to be submitted in Parliament soon. It was unclear yesterday whether any of the amendments proposed by the committee, comprising environmentalists, hoteliers and civil engineers, have been included in the draft legislation. Souflias yesterday insisted that the bill constitutes the much-delayed reform of the country’s tourism infrastructure and would boost one of the key drivers of the national economy. «It will drive construction activity, which is a fundamental lever for economic growth,» Souflias said. But conservationists as well as many civil engineers and town-planning experts continue to oppose the plan, fearing its impact on pristine coastlines and nature reserves. A representative of the Technical Chamber of Greece, the national association for civil engineers, condemned the bill, claiming that it paved the way for the «concretization» of island and other holiday resorts. In a written statement released to the press after the government committee approved the bill yesterday, Souflias insisted that the bill was a «significant structural intervention for an extremely important sector of the economy.» The minister stressed that tourism in Greece «continues to fall far behind its potential» and said the new bill could help the country achieve this potential. But he stressed that this would not be at the expense of the environment, noting that any development would be subject to «significant restrictions.»