Under pressure from the European Union, Greece’s ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition has demolished one unlawful taverna on the protected Schinias Beach near Marathon and plans to raze another and then the last three left standing in defiance of the government.
The establishments were built on a protected wetland and had been allowed to operate for years with the local government saying it was afraid to move against vested business interests that operated them.
Three of the eight were taken down in 2015, some 16 years after the initial demolition order but only after they went bankrupt. Delays in taking down the remaining five had drawn fire from the EU.
In December, 2017, the Decentralized Administration of Attica ordered the remaining five to be dismantled by the end of February.
It’s common in Greece for businesses to seize beachfront property and build unlawful facilities, including on Athens’ beachfront, and then charge people to use public beaches with a series of governments looking the other way over the practice.
If the demolition of all five structures is not completed in the next two months, however, Greece is at risk of being slapped with a hefty fine by the European Court of Justice for violating environmental protection regulations but the government has ignored previous such orders and there’s no guarantee the tavernas won’t keep on operating in defiance of the apparent law.
In January, 2016, long after the expiration of a 2014 appeal by the ministry to the municipality to revoke the other five operating licenses given to unlawful businesses, the local authorities said they didn’t want to tangle with the owners.
Deputy Mayor Vassilis Tsoupras told Kathimerini that the 2014 stay hadn’t expired at that point and said if the businesses were demolished that this would pit the municipality “in a judicial battle with these particular businessman,” who had no legal legs to stand on.