ATHENS – After withering criticism that it would open Greece seasides to runaway unlawful buildings, a bill pushed by the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA to legalize the structures has been changed to take away a protection against demolition.
The revised bill was sent to Parliament by Deputy Finance Minister Katerina Papanatsiou with changes made based on the recommendation on the Scientific Service, which found that the controversial clause violated constitutional laws for the protection of the environment.
But the bill would still allow structures built after July 28, 2011 to stay up if they “serve the purposes of national defense and security, [or concern] projects of national importance and infrastructure work for public utilities.”
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras promised to raze after deadly July, 2018 fires killed 100 people, many prevented from reaching the sea by buildings erected without permits, blocking escape routes.
Many of the deaths occurred in the seaside village of Mati, including 23 people found huddled on a cliff overlooking the sea and after he visited, Tsipras swore the government would tear down some 1,154 unlawful buildings around Athens, most on seasides.
But in an election year and needing votes, he has reneged on that after previously going back on his word to reverse austerity measures before surrendering to the Troika of the European Union-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-ECB-ESM) in the summer of 2015 to get a third bailout, this one for 86 billion euros ($97 billion.)
A debate on a draft that the Greek branch of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said amounted to a criminal act saw lawmakers arguing ferociously in Parliament and opposition from Non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) and environmentalists.
Criticism focused on the possible legalisation of illegal construction by large businesses and hotels, said Kathimerini. “Instead of honoring the people and businesses who respect environmental law, we continue to reward illegality,” said Theodota Nantsou, WWF Greece's head of policy.
The head of the Association of Rural and Surveying Engineers, Mihalis Kaloyiannakis, told the committee, “Given that it (the bill) also includes those who do not have a permit to use the coast, it means that it will not only legalize those who built illegal constructions, but also people who have encroached on the land.”
Greeks pretty much have been able to build anywhere they want without punishment or consequence, including protected territories and environmental areas and especially after woodlands burned, often at the hands of arsonists, with no law preventing building on burned lands.