OPINION

Perpetual illegality

The regulations concerning illegal construction which received cabinet approval yesterday belong among the government’s traditional pre-election ploys. Together with handouts and wage hikes, favorable arrangements for illegal buildings have always been part of the government of the day’s repertoire. So much so that the minister for the Aegean, Nikos Sifounakis, obviously galled, counted 16 packages of similar measures since 1980. The current draft legislation doesn’t completely legalize illegal constructions as some previous bills did in the spirit of «if you declare it (and pay for it) you can keep it.» But by supplying electricity and water to those buildings, it paves the way to their unhindered use, even if that is acquired at the cost of an annual fine. Besides, even the fine will attract discounts. The worst aspect is that because of the election, yet another piecemeal bill is put forward that will consolidate the existence and functionality of a large number of illegal buildings without distinguishing between them or undertaking any overall examination of the building provisions to rationalize the legislation logically, help people acquire housing and protect the natural and built-up environment. Only such an overall look can remove the excessive prohibitions and numerous inappropriate strictures that local authorities place on ownership and which facilitate construction. Only such a rationalization can then support reasonable, enforceable prohibitions and punish their infringement in deeds not words, so that buildings listed for demolition actually get demolished. But the government is giving the go-ahead to illegal building, strengthening the impression that those who break the town-planning law will benefit to the detriment of the environment. The State must find a golden mean between the demand for housing and protection of the countryside and residential areas. The balance required may impose adjustments. But no balance is served by tolerating illegal building then legalizing it by piecemeal measures. Where town planning is concerned, Greece is living through a tasteless farce which the current draft bill simply perpetuates by flouting the laws. The government commits the worst disservice by bringing the law into contempt.