OPINION

Clear rules for the environment

The fact that two enormous quarries have been operating just outside Athens – and doing so without a license for some 33 years – reveals more than anything the Greek state’s inability to protect the environment. The fact that just last year these quarries obtained a double license, both to restore the environment and to carry out mining operations, shows the illogical workings of Greece’s bureaucracy on this issue. Moreover, the fact that the Culture Ministry has declared the area an archaeological site even while its own services issued the quarries their operating licenses, says a great deal more about Greek bureaucracy. The positive thing is that the Council of State has issued a ruling that resolves these conflicting decisions. We are not in a position to judge the substance of the ruling, but it is positive that the Greek state has reached at least some conclusion, even via its justice system, on an issue that has been pending for decades. Greece’s inability to protect its environment is rooted in the fact that the state’s right hand does not know what its left hand is doing, nor does it appear to care. Rulings are issued one after another, and most of them conflict with each other. Therefore there are many empty spaces within the country’s zoning framework. As a result, the environment lies unprotected while a business culture is discouraged. And we should not forget another, outside dimension to the problem. No one wants to invest in a place where half the state says one thing and the other half says another. The principle of sustainable development, which has been reinforced by the constitution, calls for a business culture while guaranteeing protection of the environment. That is why clear rules are required. Without them, investments cannot be made, nor can the environment be protected. And that is what has been happening in Greece for years and years.