Unfair state

The development minister was very pleased to announce yesterday the progress the conservative government has made in providing electricity to illegally constructed buildings – no irony intended. Dimitris Sioufas said that in the Attica basin alone, 14,786 illegal houses were connected to the power grid by the end of June, but also stressed that the above figure amounts to just 75 percent of the total number of applications. In other words, the New Democracy government claims to have looked after owners of illegal properties better than its Socialist predecessors. Surely, illegal house owners have every right to be pleased. The related provisions were passed a few months before the 2004 elections and an amendment followed last fall. But what is the cash value of the legalization drive? And is it fair? Not quite: The provisions are just another gift to the thousands of owners of illegally constructed buildings and are combined with a dose of cash-raising motives. At the same time, the law is a slap in the face for law-abiding citizens who have always respected town-planning laws. Seeing that they might as well have turned their basements into flats and still have got connected to the power grid makes them feel like fools. These people feel they should have waited for the expiatory legislation. Examples abound: First it was the law allowing illegally constructed buildings to be connected to the power grid. Then came the decision to sell 50,000 plots of state land to people who have illegally claimed it. On top of this, the existing legislation is full of loopholes, as was recently demonstrated in the case of a 3,000-square-meter illegally built property in Lavrion that has been legally connected to the power grid. What function do these examples serve other than to encourage wrongdoing by citizens? What purpose do they serve other than vindicating those who take the law into their own hands and make a mockery of it? If the state deems that some laws are extravagant, it should take steps to amend them. But any amendments must be implemented. Moreover, the state must come up with a clear definition of illegally constructed buildings and trespassing. Illegal houses must be demolished and trespassers removed. There is no other way to ensure that law-abiding citizens are not made to feel like fools. There is no other way to ensure that citizens feel that there is a reason for respecting the law. As long as the satisfaction of wrongdoers is advertised as an achievement, society gets the wrong message – and the wrongdoing intensifies.

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