OPINION

Encroaching on individual rights

A wide range of state bodies – including the Culture Ministry, the Public Works Ministry, municipalities, prefectures and even the general staff – expropriate property from private owners without paying due compensation. This outrageous state of affairs was revealed in a report by the Greek Ombudsman that was made public yesterday. More than 400 complaints are said to have been placed with the independent citizens’ advocate office concerning state expropriations of private property without payment of due compensation as provided by law. The state’s encroachment on private land often means economic disaster for its citizens. Occasionally more than 20 years – and in extreme cases more than 70 years – pass from the moment that a state organization impounds a property until the expropriation is legally confirmed and compensation is actually paid. It is also common for a property to be impounded for a long period of time without any prior expropriation ruling. This means that municipalities, prefectures, ministries, the Public Power Corporation or other state bodies build roads, schools, hospitals, public buildings or other infrastructure projects on paper, and impound private properties without paying a single cent on compensations for decades. Should an individual dare try something similar, he or she would no doubt end up in court and be saddled with a hefty fine. In contrast, the state apparatus accords itself the right to grab and tear down private property without paying the due price or suffering any penalty. Greece has moved on from the time when expropriations would take place at very cheap prices. Now the state has the power to encroach on private property at no price whatsoever. But the rule of law must apply to its self-styled guardians as well. Until we reach that stage, people will continue to mimic the illegal ways of the state apparatus and the political administration. The government alone has the power to put the brakes on the unscrupulous state functionaries and organizations.