SYRIZA Withdraws Plan Allowing Buildings in Forests

ATHENS – After vehement complaints from environmentalists, the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition yanked a bill that would legalize unlawful buildings already in forest land.

The plan was part of an omnibus reform bill the Parliament passed with only the support of SYRIZA and its partner, the pro-austerity, far-right, nationalist Independent Greeks.

There are thousands of unlawful buildings in forest land throughout Greece, many of the built after arson fires destroyed land. No government has passed a law banning building on burned lands.

The legislation would have stipulated that new forest maps should show illegal constructions – designated as “residential clusters” – in forested areas, a backdoor scheme for legalization that raised a furor among environmentalists.

A similar plan was in the making by the previous coalition of the New Democracy Conservatives and PASOK Socialists and critics said SYRIZA wanted to do the same in a country with precious little urban green space.

Environmental campaigners insisted the maps should only delineate which areas are forested and those which are not.

“I am glad that the environment minister made the correct move for the environment, even if it was delayed,” said Theodota Nantsou, head of policy for the Greek branch of the World Wildlife Fund, WWF.