OPINION

New legal framework

Last week finally saw the demolition of a small number of illegally built sections of seaside villas in southern Attica. The whole operation took place amid many trials, tribulations and absurd inconsistencies. Negligible next to the plethora and the size of illegal constructions, the knock-down operation was an indication of the bureaucratic obstacles and suspect interventions that cause decade-long delays in the issuing of demolition orders and that eventually succeed in blocking their implementation. Despite «final» rulings on their illicit status, such buildings have remained untouched for years and they once again threatened to defy the law even though their demolition was, this time, portrayed as a hefty political decision (although in reality it was no more than a publicity stunt). Long delays, complex procedures, illegal buildings that never come down: All this is in direct contrast to the personal experience described by a Kathimerini reader residing in an northern Italian suburb, who himself breached the law when he overextended the legal limits of his house. A demolition order was issued within a few days, and because he did not appeal against it, his extension was knocked down soon after the decision came into force. This – isolated – example is not mentioned here as evidence of what happens in other countries (which is something we do not pretend to be aware of), but rather of what should be happening in Greece today. Demolitions of illegal buildings, in other words, should not be seen as extraordinary and isolated events – or, in fact, as much-hyped political acts – but instead as part of normal procedure for punishing a specific wrongdoing – as happens when penalizing any other violation of the law. In order to achieve this, of course, we would need a clear and rational legal framework that clarifies which constructions are not acceptable (either for the protection of the coastline and forest or for aesthetical reasons). Exceptions should only take place in rare cases and when a fine is considered more appropriate. Also we need more pragmatic legislation that does not place too many obstacles in the way of citizens who want to exploit their properties. Our country lacks all preconditions for orderly town planning. The vacuum cannot be filled by a few sensational demolitions, especially when the government, at the same time, decides to provide electricity to thousands of illegal buildings. We need serious study and public debate, as well as political consensus, in order to introduce realistic, area-specific measures that will then be carried out without a big drum roll, without political statements and without exceptions.