OPINION

Seasonal laws

It is common knowledge that apart from seasonal products and seasonal discounts, Greece also has plenty of seasonal laws. The case of illegally built homes is a typical one. Each newly elected government promises to put an end to this national habit, and proceeds with a couple of spectacular demolitions; but when the elections roll around again, it ends up by perversely broadening public participation in illegal home-building by introducing favorable provisions. Unfortunately, the modern-minded PASOK also took the beaten track, although one would expect that the election of a former public order minister to the top echelon of the ruling party would be following by an enhanced respect for the rule of law. The joint decision by the ministries of Public Works and National Economy foresees installments for the illegal-turned-legal homeowners and a drastic acceleration of the procedure so that their homes be supplied with «light, water, telephone,» as the good old seaside-plot-of-land ads proclaimed. It cannot be denied that the problem is complex and has diverse social repercussions. No one would want to see the State taking a sweeping, callous stance on the have-nots, migrants, repatriates and so on who have been forced to find an illicit solution to their severe accommodation problem. However, it is hard to believe that the incredible number of one million illegal buildings that have been raised throughout the country involves such cases alone. Besides, the favorable provisions of the new government regulation will also benefit «the haves» as they legalize illicit buildings of up to 400 square meters by imposing a maximum penalty of 30,000 euros. The fact that in this sea of illegality there exist some islands of rational and responsible home-building with respect for the environment and the cultural heritage (such as the Zagori villages and Mani) confirms that when state encouragement meets the creativity of local communities, an alternative path is possible. Unfortunately, these exceptions confirm the rule. And the rule has it that governments are held ransom not only to entanglement with big private interests but also to another, underestimated but huge network of smaller interests (which are electorally crucial). All this vindicates the view that what the illegal homeowner wants is what the law provides.