The government presented dozens of amendments yesterday in an attempt to save its much-criticized bill on coastal development. In this way it tried to stave off criticism coming from all sides of Parliament, including not only Socialist party dissenters but also officials belonging to PASOK’s reformist section. The cosmetic amendments – which did not touch at all upon the philosophy of the unacceptable bill – were designed to propitiate this latter group of critics. The intention of legitimizing violations of the law and extending the ability to grab and appropriate beaches remains the quintessence of the bill. There was an attempt to conceal personal objectives, self-interest and scandalous settlements to the benefit of powerful agents under the cloak of modernization, while Deputy Economy Minister Apostolos Fotiadis denounced reactions to the bill as an attempt to obstruct the country’s economic development. The government’s distaste for modern viewpoints of environmental and ecological sensitivity are already a matter of record. PASOK officials have enriched their vocabulary with terms such as sustainable development but they are constantly proving that they have not grasped their actual content. The adoption of an Attila-style policy – to use former minister Theodoros Pangalos’s scathing remark – on environmental issues reinforces people’s impression that the government does not hesitate to implement policies which are detrimental to the environment in order to fulfill profit-making objectives. Furthermore, the attempt to present such objectives as being mandated by the needs of the Athens 2004 Olympics does a bad service to the Games. State propaganda connecting land-grabbing, the filling of streams with rubble and the exclusion of beaches from public use will not render these practices any more popular. Rather, the Olympic idea will be undermined if it is loaded with associations that dent its status and disclose government hypocrisy. It is indeed a sorry sight to see such a bill presented as the fruit of the political labors of nine responsible ministries, of which the Aegean Ministry is is conspicuous by its absence. Frivolousness, lack of preparation, even the failure of the minister responsible to realize the consequences of the bill are all factors which serve all kinds of underlying motives of self-interest while they dramatically expose the government of Costas Simitis.

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