Greek Politicians Change The Law, Above The Law

Leandros Rakintzis

ATHENS – Greece’s top anti-corruption chief leveled a blast at his country’s politicians and lawmakers, saying they use sneaky, back-door amendments to take the guts out of laws they passed as a pretense to show they are serious about making change.

Public Administration General Inspector Leandros Rakintzis was angry that someone who is as yet unidentified – although it’s supposedly a public record – slipped an amendment into a bill before Parliament that allows unlawful tavernas at Schinias Beach at Marathon to remain standing even though the country’s Council of State ruled they should be taken down.

In an interview with Kathimerini, Rakintzis accused politicians of canceling out their own rules after it was revealed that the government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who favors unfettered development on the coasts, in parks and in green space to bring in money, was behind the amendment.

“We often see laws being bypassed by the same state that legislated them in the first place,” he said. “All you need is one politician to pass an amendment and the law, in effect, becomes void.”

There was no reaction from the office of Samaras, the New Democracy Conservative leader, nor his partner, the PASOK Socialists, although they have commonly used amendments to render ineffective laws they had previously passed.

There have been court orders to demolish the buildings since 1996 because they have been built within a protected area but the government favors building even in environmentally-sensitive areas allegedly covered by Greek and European Union laws.

Outgoing Marathon Mayor Iordanis Loizos told Kathimerini earlier this month that the municipality has repeatedly shut down the tavernas following a final court decision in 2011 but the government has failed to proceed with the demolition of the buildings.

The amendment allows the unlawful buildings, which are owned by the Judges and Prosecutors’ Building Cooperative, to avoid demolition for at least another year.

During that time, the tavernas can also keep functioning. When this period elapses, they will be allowed to move to another area of the national park, the so-called Zone B, where some commercial activity and buildings are allowed.

“Parliament can do anything except make a man a woman and a woman a man,” joked Rakintzis. Last year he accused the Justice Ministry of trying to declare that bribes weren’t unlawful by using arcane language to defend the common practice in Greece.